New American Bible Revised Edition

* [1:1] The thirtieth year, which corresponds to the fifth year of exile (v. 2), has never been satisfactorily explained; possibly it refers to the prophet’s age, or the anniversary of the finding of the book of the law in the Temple during Josiah’s reform of 622 (2 Kgs 22:1–13). The river Chebar: probably a canal near Nippur, southeast of Babylon, one of the sites on which the Jewish exiles were settled.

* [1:2] The fifth day…the fifth year: the end of July, 593 B.C.; cf. v. 1.

* [1:4] The North: Zaphon, the traditional abode of the gods; see notes on Jb 37:22; Ps 48:3; Is 14:13–15.

* [1:5] Four living creatures: identified as cherubim in 10:1–2, 20. Known from Assyrian religion as minor guardian deities of palaces and temples, the cherubim were usually portrayed in gigantic sculpture with the bodies of bulls or lions, wings like an eagle and a human head. In the Jerusalem Temple, the Lord was enthroned above in the holy of holies (Is 6:1–2).

* [1:10] The four faces together represent animate creation: wild animals, domesticated livestock, birds, and human beings. Christian tradition associates them with the four evangelists: the lion with Mark, the ox with Luke, the eagle with John, and the man with Matthew.

* [1:13–14] The coals and flashing lightning moving among the four creatures and yet coming from them identify this vision as a theophany. See note on 10:2–13.

* [1:15–21] The repetitions and inconsistencies in the description of the wheels and the direction of their movements evoke the vision’s mysterious quality and emphasize the difficulty of describing the divine world in human language.

* [1:22–23, 26] This symbolic description of God’s throne is similar to that in Ex 24:9–10.

* [1:26] Looked like a human being: the God who transcends the powers of the human imagination is pictured here in the likeness of an enthroned human king.

* [2:1] Son of man: in Hebrew, “son/daughter of…” is a common idiom expressing affiliation in a group; in this case, “a human being.” The title is God’s habitual way of addressing the prophet throughout this book, probably used to emphasize the separation of the divine and the human.

* [2:2] The spirit: lit., wind, breath; a vital power, coming from God, which enables the prophet to hear the divine word; cf. 8:3; 11:1, 24.

* [2:6] And you sit among scorpions: the prophet must be prepared for bitter opposition.

* [3:3] As sweet as honey: though the prophet must foretell terrible things, the word of God is sweet to the one who receives it.

* [3:8] Cf. Jer 1:18. The prophet must face fierce opposition with the determination and resistance shown by his opponents.

* [3:12] The glory of the Lord: the divine presence, manifested here in audible form. Cf. Ex 40:34; Lk 2:9.

* [3:15] Tel-abib: one of the sites where the exiles were settled, probably near Nippur.

* [3:17–21] This passage refers to the prophet’s role as sentinel, placed here and in chap. 33 as introductions to sections containing judgment oracles and salvation oracles respectively; cf. Hb 2:1.

* [3:26–27] Mute: here the prophet’s inability to speak to the people in exile while Jerusalem was being besieged is seen as a consequence of God’s direct intervention (cf. 24:27).

* [4:1–5:4] The symbolic actions in this section prepare for the series of oracles that follow in 5:5–7:27.

* [4:5–6] Three hundred and ninety days…forty days: a symbol to represent the respective lengths of exile for the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Israel had already fallen to Assyria in 722/721 B.C. The numerical value of the Hebrew consonants in the phrase translated “the days of your siege” (v. 8) is three hundred and ninety. Forty years conventionally represents one generation.

* [4:7] Bared arm: a symbol of unrestrained power.

* [4:9–13] This action represents the scarcity of food during the siege of Jerusalem, and the consequent need to eat whatever is at hand. Twenty shekels: about nine ounces. The sixth of a hin: about one quart.

* [4:11] Hin: see note on 45:24.

* [4:16] Break the staff of bread: reducing the supply of bread that supports life as the walking staff supports a traveler; cf. 5:16; 14:13; Lv 26:26; Ps 105:16; Is 3:1.

* [5:2] The city: the one drawn on the tablet (4:1).

* [5:8] I am coming against you: an expression borrowed from the language of warfare in which an enemy attacked another with the sword. “You” in vv. 8–17 is Jerusalem.

* [5:10] Parents will eat their children…parents: the prophet describes the consequences of the prolonged Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 587/586 B.C. See note on Lam 2:20.

* [6:3] High places: raised platforms usually built on hills outside towns for making sacrifices to the Lord or to Canaanite deities. They became synonymous with places of idolatry after the centralization of worship in the Jerusalem Temple.

* [6:5] Scatter your bones…altars: the bones of the dead defiled a place; cf. 2 Kgs 23:14.

* [6:7] You shall know that I am the Lord: this formula is repeated after most of Ezekiel’s oracles from this point on. Whatever happens to Israel happens at the Lord’s command; because the Lord uses the nations to punish or reward Israel for its behavior, Israel will learn that its God has sole rule over the nations and the universe, and will acknowledge that rule in obedience.

* [6:11] Clap your hands, stamp your feet: these gestures may express grief, even horror, at Israel’s infidelities; in 25:6, they are signs of gloating.

* [6:13] Every green tree and leafy oak: trees often identified with fertility deities and the “tree of life”; sacred groves had a long history in Palestine and throughout the Mediterranean basin as places of worship; cf. Dt 12:2.

* [6:14] From the wilderness to Riblah: the whole land, from the far south to the far north.

* [7:12–13] Normal affairs will cease to have any meaning in view of the disaster that is to come.

* [7:17] Hands…knees: image of profound terror; loss of control of body movement and functions.

* [7:18] Shaved bald: shaving the head was a sign of mourning.

* [7:20] Assyrian wall paintings show that statues of deities were often cast in precious metals and then decorated with jewelry. Cf. Is 40:19–20; 41:6–7; 44:9–20.

* [7:24] Proud strength: misplaced trust in the might and power of their kings and army. Cf. v. 22; 33:28 and related ideas in Is 2:12; 10:12; 13:11; Jer 48:29; Ez 24:21; 30:18.

* [8:1] In the sixth year, on the fifth day of the sixth month: September, 592 B.C.

* [8:2] Looked like a man: the divine presence which accompanies Ezekiel in these visions. Cf. 40:3–4.

* [8:3] The spirit lifted me up: the prophet is transported in vision from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezekiel may be drawing on his memory of the Temple from before his exile in 598 B.C. The statue of jealousy: the statue which provokes the Lord’s outrage against the insults of his own people; perhaps the statue of the goddess Asherah set up by Manasseh, king of Judah (cf. 2 Kgs 21:7; 2 Chr 33:7, 15). Although his successor, Josiah, had removed it (2 Kgs 23:6), the statue may have been set up again after his death.

* [8:10] Creeping things and loathsome beasts: perhaps images of Egyptian deities, often represented in animal form. During the last days of Jerusalem Zedekiah, king of Judah, was allied with Egypt, hoping for protection against the Babylonians.

* [8:14] Wept for Tammuz: the withering of trees and plants that began in late spring was attributed to the descent of Tammuz, the Mesopotamian god of fertility, to the world of the dead beneath the earth. During the fourth month of the year, female worshipers of Tammuz would wail and mourn the god’s disappearance.

* [8:16] Bowing eastward: sun worship was perhaps introduced as a condition of alliance with other nations. While Josiah removed some elements of this worship (2 Kgs 23:11), Manasseh, for example, built altars to all the “hosts of heaven” in two Temple courtyards (2 Kgs 21:5).

* [8:17] Putting the branch to my nose: the meaning is uncertain. It may be connected with the social injustice mentioned in v. 17b and in 9:9, e.g., “with their violence they tweak my nose,” i.e., “goad my fury.” The Masoretic text reads “their noses” as a euphemism for “my nose,” thus avoiding the impropriety of these idolaters coming into contact with God even figuratively.

* [9:4] Ezekiel emphasizes personal accountability; the innocent inhabitants of Jerusalem are spared while the idolatrous are punished. An X: lit., the Hebrew letter taw.

* [10:2–13] The burning coals, a sign of the divine presence (cf. 28:14; Ps 18:9), represent the judgment of destruction that God is visiting upon the city; they may also represent the judgment of purification that prepares the land to become the Lord’s sanctuary (cf. Is 6:6–7).

* [10:15–19] The throne represents God’s presence as ruler and protector of the land. In chap. 1, God is revealed as the lord of the world who can appear even in a far-off land; here God is about to abandon the Temple, that is, hand the city over to its enemies. God and the throne return again in 43:1–3.

* [10:20–22] The repetition of description from the preceding verses is a device intended to suggest the rapid, constantly changing motion of the vision and the difficulty of describing the divine in human language.

* [11:3] No need to build houses…meat: this advice is based on the conviction that invincible Jerusalem will protect its citizens from further danger just as a pot shields the meat inside from the fire. The poorer citizens of Jerusalem and the refugees from nearby villages can now appropriate the property abandoned by the city’s wealthier upper class when they were deported (v. 15). The metaphor of the pot and its contents reappears in chap. 24.

* [11:13] In Ezekiel’s vision Pelatiah represents the people left in Jerusalem, “the remnant of Israel.” His sudden death in the vision, but not in reality, is a figure for the judgment described in vv. 8–10 and prompts Ezekiel’s anguished question about the survival of the people left in the land after the deportations in 597.

* [11:15–21] Ezekiel insists that those who remained in Judah are doomed; the exiles, under a new covenant, will constitute a new Israel. Cf. chap. 36; Jer 24:7; 29.

* [11:23] The glory of the Lord departs toward the east, to the exiles in Babylon; it will return once the Temple is rebuilt (43:1–3).

* [12:3–10] An exile’s bag contains bare necessities, probably no more than a bowl, a mat, and a waterskin. The prophet’s action foreshadows the fate of ruler and people (vv. 11–14).

* [12:5] Through the wall: mud-brick outer wall of a private home. In this symbolic action, Ezekiel represents the enemy forces, and the house wall, the city wall of Jerusalem breached by the Babylonian army.

* [12:13] Though he shall not see it: according to a Targum, an allusion to Nebuchadnezzar having Zedekiah blinded before deporting him to Babylonia (cf. 2 Kgs 25:7); according to the Septuagint, the king is ashamed of his flight from the city and disguises himself so others will not recognize him.

* [12:16] Both exiles and nations shall know that the exile is divine punishment for Israel’s betrayal of the Lord and the covenant, not evidence that the Lord is too weak to fight off the Babylonian deity.

* [12:19] The people of the land: the exiles in Babylon who, ironically, are now outside the land.

* [12:22–28] This proverb conveys the skepticism the people of Jerusalem have; cf. Jer 20:7–9.

* [13:10] The false prophets contributed to popular illusions of security by predictions of peace, like those who whitewash a wall to conceal its defects.

* [13:18] Sew amulets…make veils: used by sorcerers to mark individuals for life or for death. For a small price (v. 19), these women promised protection for the wicked, who, in the Lord’s estimation, “should not live” (v. 19), and death for the righteous, “who should not be slain” (v. 19). Both decisions belong to the Lord.

* [13:19] Handfuls of barley and crumbs of bread: payment for the amulets and scarves.

* [14:9] The ancient Israelites thought that God could use deception as a means of promoting divine justice; cf. 2 Sm 24:1–3; 1 Kgs 22:19–23.

* [14:12–23] According to Ezekiel, the people in Jerusalem deserve destruction because they are corrupt. Yet he admits an exception to the principle of individual responsibility when he affirms that some of those deserving death will survive and be reunited with family in exile. The depravity of Jerusalem testifies that the punishment of Jerusalem was just and necessary.

* [14:14] Noah, Daniel, and Job: righteous folk heroes whom Israel shared with other ancient Near Eastern cultures. Daniel was the just judge celebrated in Ugaritic literature, perhaps the model for the hero of Dn 13.

* [15:1–8] Verses 2–5 point out that the wood of the vinestock may be burned for fuel, fit only for destruction. In vv. 6–8 Ezekiel asserts that Jerusalem has the same destiny.

* [16:3–4] By origin and birth…Hittite: Jerusalem’s pre-Israelite origins are the breeding ground for its inability to respond faithfully to the Lord’s generosity.

* [16:4–5] In this chapter, Ezekiel represents Jerusalem and Samaria as unwanted, abandoned sisters whom the Lord rescues and cares for. Here the prophet depicts Jerusalem as a newborn female, abandoned and left to die, an accepted practice in antiquity for females, who were considered financial liabilities by their families. That the infant has no one, not even her mother, to tie off her umbilical cord, wash her clean, and wrap her in swaddling clothes emphasizes Jerusalem’s death-like isolation and accentuates the Lord’s gracious action in her behalf. The practice of rubbing the skin of newborns with salt is an attested Palestinian custom that survived into the twentieth century.

* [16:8] I spread the corner of my cloak: one way to acquire a woman for marriage; cf. Ru 3:9. In Dt 23:1 a son’s illicit sexual relations with his father’s wife is described as “uncovering the edge of the father’s garment.”

* [16:16] In the allegory of this chapter the viewpoint often shifts from the figure (prostitution) to the reality (idolatry). A symbol of the woman’s depravity supersedes her parents’ cruel abandonment when she was an infant. It overrides the loyalty she owes her covenant partner and the care she owes their children.

* [16:20–21] Also a reference to the practice of child sacrifice introduced under Judah’s impious kings; cf. 2 Kgs 16:3; 17:17; Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35.

* [16:24] A platform…a dais: associated with rituals borrowed from the Canaanites.

* [16:27] Philistines: lit., “daughters of the Philistines,” a common expression when referring to the various towns that make up a territory.

* [16:38] As a jealous husband, Yhwh severely punishes Jerusalem for her adultery: i.e., her worship of idols. Adultery was considered a capital crime in ancient Israel; cf. Lv 20:10–14; Nm 5:11–28; Dt 22:22.

* [16:45] Truly the daughter of your mother: Jerusalem’s depraved behavior follows from the bad behavior of its non-Israelite forebears; cf. v. 3.

* [16:46–47] Jerusalem is so much more corrupt than Samaria, the elder sister in size, and the smaller Sodom that both now appear just and righteous. Ezekiel’s reference to Sodom indicates that the city’s identification with wickedness and evil was already an established tradition in fifth century B.C. Judah.

* [16:60] Everlasting covenant: Ezekiel foresees God renewing the covenant of Sinai in a new and spirit-empowered way that will not be fatally broken as in the present exile or force God to abandon Israel again; cf. 11:19–21; 36:25–27; 37:26–28.

* [17:11–21] These verses explain the allegory in vv. 3–10. In 597 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar removed Jehoiachin from the throne and took him into exile; in his place he set Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, on the throne and received from him the oath of loyalty. But Zedekiah was persuaded to rebel by Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt and thus deserved punishment; cf. 2 Kgs 24:10–25:7.

* [17:22–23] The Lord will undo the actions of the Babylonian king by rebuilding the Davidic dynasty so the nations realize that only Israel’s God can restore a people’s destiny.

* [18:2] Parents…on edge: a proverb the people quoted to complain that they were being punished for their ancestors’ sins; cf. Jer 31:29.

* [18:6] Eat on the mountains: take part in meals after sacrifice at the high places.

* [18:25] The Lord’s way is not fair: this chapter rejects the idea that punishment is transferred from one generation to the next and emphasizes individual responsibility and accountability.

* [19:1–9] Some commentators identify Jehoahaz and Zedekiah, sons of the same mother, as the “two young lions”; they were deported to Egypt and Babylon respectively. Cf. 2 Kgs 23:31–34; 24:18–20.

* [19:4] A common fate for royal prisoners: e.g., Assurbanipal claims he put a ring in the jaw of a captive king and a dog collar around his neck (cf. v. 9). A wall relief shows Esarhaddon holding two royal captives with ropes tied to rings in their lips.

* [19:10–14] Vine: Judah. One strong branch: the Davidic king. This allegory describes the deportation of the Davidic dynasty to Babylon and laments the destruction of the house of David. From Ezekiel’s perspective, the arrogance of Judah’s kings leads to this tragedy (vv. 12–14).

* [20:1] The seventh year…the fifth month: August 14, 591 B.C.

* [20:7] Detestable things: in the Book of Ezekiel, Israel’s continued worship of idols in Egypt and in the wilderness, despite the Lord’s powerful deeds on their behalf, is the reason God punishes them so severely; they must learn and acknowledge that he is their only Lord. Cf., e.g., Exodus (5:1–6:9; 14:10–30; 16:1–36) and Numbers (11:1–15; 14:1–12; 20:1–9), where the people’s failure to trust Moses and the Lord brings punishment.

* [20:25–26] I gave them statutes that were not good: because Israel rejected the Lord’s life-giving laws, he “gave” laws (e.g., the sacrifice of every firstborn) that would lead only to death and destruction. Dt 12:29–31; Jer 7:31; 19:4–5 may address a popular assumption that the Lord accepted and perhaps required child sacrifice, especially as evidence of great trust during national emergencies (2 Kgs 3:27; Mi 6:7). By combining language from Ex 22:28 with the vocabulary of child sacrifice, Ezekiel suggests that firstborn sons were regularly sacrificed in Israel.

* [20:29] High place: a cultic site, originally a hilltop, but often a raised platform in a sacred area. Until Deuteronomy’s insistence that official and legitimate worship of the Lord take place only in Jerusalem, these local shrines were popular places for worship (e.g., 1 Sm 9–10) or for consulting the Lord (1 Kgs 3:4–5). In order to unite the Kingdom of Judah politically and religiously, Dt 12:2 demands destruction of the high places. Ezekiel, like other prophets, condemns Israelite worship at these places and identifies this illegitimate worship as one reason for the punishment of exile.

* [20:35–38] Exile among other lands occasions a new exodus and a new wilderness journey back to Israel. The Lord will eliminate the rebellious, as he did on the first journey, and use the surviving remnant to reveal his power to the nations.

* [20:37] Pass under the staff: in Lv 27:32–33, a method of counting off animals to select those to be dedicated for the tithe. In Ezekiel, on the other hand, those who survive the selection process are marked for destruction for violating the covenant.

* [20:40] Holy mountain: the Temple mount and Jerusalem in contrast to “every high hill” in v. 28 (cf. the royal Zion theology in Ps 48:2). Acceptable worship takes place here among a restored people, a theme taken up in chaps. 40–48 (cf. 40:2).

* [21:2–4] In Babylon Ezekiel looks toward Judah, pictured as a forest about to be destroyed by fire.

* [21:8] Cut off from you the righteous and the wicked: a more complete devastation of Jerusalem than that described in 9:6.

* [21:12] What I heard: the news of the fall of Jerusalem; cf. 33:21–22.

* [21:17] Slap your thigh: a gesture signifying grief and dread; cf. Jer 31:19.

* [21:22] Clap my hands: the Lord declares himself no longer responsible for Judah; cf. 22:13; Nm 24:10; Jb 27:23; Lam 2:15.

* [21:26] Three forms of divination are mentioned: arrow divination, consisting in the use of differently marked arrows extracted or shaken from a case at random; the consultation of the teraphim or household idols; and liver divination, scrutiny of the configurations of the livers of newly slaughtered animals, a common form of divination in Mesopotamia.

* [21:27–28] A lot marked “Jerusalem” falls out, which marks the guilt of the city’s inhabitants.

* [21:33–37] In vv. 23–32 Ezekiel imagines Nebuchadnezzar deciding whether to attack Jerusalem or Rabbath-Ammon. As it happened, the Babylonians decided to attack Jerusalem first. Here (vv. 33–37) Ezekiel prophesies to the Ammonites that a nation which serves as an instrument of the Lord’s judgment will itself be judged.

* [22:2–16] This first oracle focuses on Jerusalem as a “city of bloodshed” (cf. Na 3:1). Here transgressions involving blood, the oppression of the poor, and improper cultic practices are seen as interrelated, for blood as the carrier of life is fundamental to both the cultic and social spheres of life.

* [22:6] To shed blood: a very serious charge in light of the solemn command of God to Noah in Gn 9:6 against human bloodshed.

* [22:9–11] The charges against Jerusalem echo the commandments of Lv 20:10–18.

* [22:18–22] The image of smelting metals for purifying the people by the attacks of their enemies is common among the prophets; cf. Is 1:22, 25; Jer 6:27–30.

* [22:24–31] For a similar oracle, cf. Zep 3:1–8.

* [23:4] Oholah…Oholibah: symbolic names for Samaria, “her own tent,” and Jerusalem, “my tent is in her.” Cf. Ps 15:1 where “tent” is a synonym for “holy mountain.” The names refer to the temple set up in the Northern Kingdom of Samaria (1 Kgs 12:28–29) and the Jerusalem Temple.

* [23:23] Pekod, Shoa and Koa: nations along the Tigris River, part of “greater Babylonia.”

* [23:31] The cup is a metaphor for divine punishment, the lot of all who rebel against the Lord (cf. Ps 75:9; Jer 25:15–16; 51:7; Is 51:21–23; Lam 4:21; Hb 2:15–16).

* [23:36–49] Unlike vv. 1–35, this short poem juxtaposes the careers of the two sisters and looks to a future punishment. The male lovers of the first poem become the sisters’ executioners, and the guests at the love feast a lynch mob. So corrupt and depraved are the two sisters that their executioners win the esteemed title “righteous,” for they have acted appropriately as agents of the Lord’s judgment.

* [24:1–14] As the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem begins (588 B.C.), Ezekiel uses allegory to depict Jerusalem and its over-confident inhabitants as a pot of meat set on the fire for boiling (vv. 3–5; cf. 11:3) and left there until only burnt bones remain (v. 10). In vv. 6–8, the innocent blood shed by Jerusalem’s inhabitants is the rust that, despite efforts to remove it, coats the interior of the pot filled with meat. Once emptied (v. 8), the rust-encrusted pot is set on hot coals (v. 11), but the rust remains (v. 12). Only the brunt of the Lord’s fury can cleanse Jerusalem of its guilt (vv. 13–14).

* [24:1] The tenth day…the ninth year: January 15, 588 B.C. The same wording appears in 2 Kgs 25:1 (Jer 52:4).

* [24:7] Blood…to be covered with dirt: since blood was sacred to God, it had to be covered with earth (Gn 37:26; Lv 17:13); the blood of innocent victims left uncovered cried out for vengeance; cf. Gn 4:10; Jb 16:18; Is 26:21.

* [24:12] A cryptic line in Hebrew.

* [24:17] The bread of mourners: a post-burial meal that mourners shared to comfort one another; cf. 2 Sm 3:35; Jer 16:7. The other gestures mentioned here were also popular mourning customs. Because Ezekiel does not observe any of the mourning customs mentioned, the people are puzzled and ask him to explain.

* [24:22–24] The fall of the city will be so sudden and final that the exiles will have no time to go into mourning.

* [24:27] Mute: unable to preach anything but the Lord’s judgment against Judah and Jerusalem; cf. 3:27 and note on 33:21–22.

* [25:1–32:32] These chapters form a body of oracles directed against foreign nations. They follow the prophet’s condemnation of Judah and oracles announcing its destruction. The unit precedes the announcement of Judah’s salvation in chaps. 33–48.

* [25:1–17] Ezekiel condemns four nations for their reactions to Judah’s destruction and exile: Ammon to the east (vv. 2–7); Moab to the southeast (vv. 8–11); Edom to the south (vv. 12–14); Philistia to the west (vv. 15–17). Their hostility was not unprovoked; at one time or another, each one either lost territory to Israel or had been under Israelite control.

* [25:4] People from the east: nomadic tribes from the desert east of Ammon and Moab (cf. Is 11:14; Jer 49:28), often a threat to outlying towns and villages.

* [25:9] The whole flank of Moab: the eastern edge of the Moabite plateau, perhaps lightly fortified because the vast desert to the east provided a natural barrier to invasion.

* [25:16] Cherethites: people from the island of Crete in the Aegean, the Philistines’ point of origin. In Zep 2:5, the terms “Philistines,” “Cherethites,” and “seacoast people” describe the same group of people.

* [26:1] The Hebrew text does not give a number with the month. This translation assumes a scribal error, the omission of the second occurrence of the number eleven.

* [26:2] Tyre is pictured rejoicing over Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon because now the wealth from caravans and other trade will go to Tyrian merchants.

* [26:4–5] A bare rock: the Tyre of Ezekiel’s time was situated on a rocky island just off the Phoenician coast. During the time of Alexander the Great a causeway was built to connect it to the mainland.

* [26:6] Daughter cities: tributary towns and villages on the mainland.

* [26:16] The princes of the sea: the rulers of the islands and coastal cities leagued commercially with Tyre.

* [26:17] Lament: the princes sing a funeral dirge at the burial of the personified Tyre; cf. the similar lamentation over Egypt in 32:3–8.

* [26:20] Those who go down to the pit: the dead, pictured as dwelling in Sheol, a place or cave of darkness. Cf. 32:17–32; Is 14:4–21 for other examples.

* [27:5] Senir: another name for Mount Hermon; cf. Dt 3:9.

* [27:6] Bashan: an area in northern Transjordan, noted for its lush growth and great forests (cf. Is 2:13). Kittim: here, probably Cyprus.

* [27:7] Elishah: perhaps another term for Cyprus.

* [27:8–9] Sidon…Gebal: Phoenician cities in Tyre’s orbit of influence; Gebal is classical Byblos.

* [27:11] Helech: perhaps in Asia Minor; otherwise unknown.

* [27:17] Grain: most commentators have read “figs,” but Hebrew panag more properly describes milled grains or prepared meal.

* [28:1–10] Ezekiel mocks the arrogance of Tyre’s leader, who mistakes the city’s commercial success for evidence of his divinity. At the hands of a foreign army, commissioned by the only God worthy of the name, this leader dies a humiliating, unceremonious death.

* [28:3] Wiser than Daniel: see note on 14:14.

* [28:12–19] Ezekiel describes the leader of Tyre in language that recalls the imagery of Gn 2–3.

* [28:14] The holy mountain of God: the residence of gods in Israelite and non-Israelite myth; cf. Is 14:13. Fiery stones: associated with the divine presence; cf. Ez 1:13; Ps 18:13.

* [29:1] The date is calculated to be January 7, 587 B.C. The siege of Jerusalem had begun a year earlier; cf. 24:1.

* [29:2] Egypt was allied with Judah against the Babylonians.

* [29:3] Dragon: Hebrew reads tannim, usually translated “jackals,” here a byform of tannin, the mythical dragon, or sea monster, representing chaos (cf. Is 27:1; 51:9; Jer 51:34; Ps 91:13; Jb 7:12), and the crocodile native to the Nile. Nile: the many rivulets of the Nile that branch out into the Delta.

* [29:4–5] Ezekiel’s repetition of detail creates a vivid picture of Egypt’s destruction: God hauls the crocodile (Pharaoh) and the fish clinging to it for protection (the Egyptian populace) out of the Nile and lands them in an open field, where their corpses are torn apart by wildlife rather than being properly buried (cf. Dt 28:26; 2 Kgs 9:36–37; Jer 34:20; Ez 39:17–20).

* [29:6] Staff of reeds: Pharaoh is like a reed that looks sturdy but breaks under pressure. For a similar image, cf. 2 Kgs 18:21 (Is 36:6).

* [29:10] From Migdol to Syene: from the northeastern to the southern limits of Egypt. Syene is the modern Aswan, at the first cataract of the Nile; Ethiopia (Heb. kush) is the territory south of Aswan.

* [29:14] Pathros: an Egyptian word for upper, i.e., southern, Egypt, above Memphis/Thebes. As silt filled the Delta region and richer land became available there, the population spread north, creating the tradition of a migration from the south (Is 11:11; Jer 44:1, 15).

* [29:17] In the twenty-seventh year on the first day of the first month: April 26, 571 B.C. This is the latest date attached to any of Ezekiel’s prophecies.

* [29:18–19] Nebuchadnezzar’s thirteen-year siege (587–574 B.C.) ended with Tyre’s surrender on the condition that the Babylonian army would not loot and pillage (pace 26:3–14). According to Ezekiel, Nebuchadnezzar and his army should collect their wages for serving as God’s instrument in Tyre’s punishment, by plundering and controlling Egypt.

* [29:21] A horn: God will give Israel renewed strength. For horn as a symbol of strength, cf. Dt 33:17; Ps 92:11; 132:17. Ezekiel suggests that the Babylonian conquest of Egypt precedes Israel’s restoration, an event he expects to witness and acknowledge when God removes his muteness.

* [30:5] Mixed rabble: mercenaries.

* [30:9] God spreads panic throughout Ethiopia, ancient Cush, by sending messengers with news of Egypt’s fall. Rivers at its borders insulated Ethiopia and made it inaccessible except by boat.

* [30:13–19] The prophet enumerates a list of major Egyptian cities that shall each bear the judgment proclaimed in the previous oracle, vv. 1–12.

* [30:20] The seventh day of the first month in the eleventh year: April 29, 587 B.C.

* [30:21–26] This oracle was delivered more than a year into the siege of Jerusalem (24:1). When Pharaoh Hophra came to help Jerusalem, the Babylonians temporarily lifted the siege; cf. Jer 34:21; 37:6–7. In Ezekiel’s eyes, Hophra was interfering with the punishment God intended the Babylonians to inflict on Judah. The Babylonians routed the Egyptians, who could not offer Jerusalem any more help; cf. chap. 31.

* [31:1] The first day of the third month in the eleventh year: June 21, 587 B.C.

* [31:3] Assyria: this translates te’ashshur, which some interpret as “cypress tree.” The oracle, however, compares the fate of Pharaoh to the terrible demise of Assyria because of its arrogant pride (cf. Na 1–3). Ezekiel may have drawn on an ancient myth of a cosmic tree of life to emphasize the greatness of Egypt’s fall.

* [31:6] Shade: a metaphor for protection (cf. Lam 4:20).

* [31:9] Here Israel’s God is responsible for Assyria’s splendor, whereas in Is 10:13 Assyria claims to have created its own might.

* [31:17] Allies: lit., “arm.”

* [32:1] The first day of the twelfth month in the twelfth year: March 3, 585 B.C.

* [32:17–32] The description of Pharaoh in Sheol shifts rapidly between the single individual and the collective body, between corpses speaking and corpses lying inert, between singular (his, hers, its) and plural (them, theirs) pronouns to emphasize that all the enemies of Israel come to the same end.

* [32:26] Meshech and Tubal: see note on 38:2.

* [33:2] Sentinel: the theme of the sentinel’s duty initiates a new commission to announce salvation (chaps. 33–48), just as the same command (3:17–21) opened Ezekiel’s ministry to announce judgment (chaps. 3–24).

* [33:21–22] The fifth day of the tenth month: January 8, 585 B.C. According to Jeremiah (39:2), Jerusalem was taken in July, 587. Some manuscripts read “eleventh” for “twelfth” year (January, 586); even so, there was ample time between the fall of Jerusalem and the arrival of the survivor from that city to journey to Babylon. However, this is the survivor sent to fulfill the promise of Ez 24:25–27, the eyewitness whose arrival would release Ezekiel from his muteness; cf. 3:26–27.

* [33:23–29] News brought by the survivor furnished the occasion for this prophecy. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel rejects the idea that those left in Judah have any claim to the land. The new Israel is to be formed from the exiles.

* [33:32] Singer: perhaps the term indicates an entertainer whom one enjoys and then forgets.

* [34:2] Shepherds: the leaders of the people. A frequent title for kings and deities in the ancient Near East; the ideal ruler took care of his subjects and anticipated their needs. Ezekiel’s oracle broadens the reference to include the whole class of Jerusalem’s leaders (v. 17). The prophet assures his audience, the exiles in Babylon, that God holds these leaders responsible for what has happened to Jerusalem and will give Israel a new shepherd worthy of the title.

* [34:23] One shepherd: a future king to rule over a unified, restored Israel, in the image of the idealized David present in the Book of Kings (cf., e.g., 1 Kgs 3:3; 11:38; 2 Kgs 14:3; 22:2). My servant David: a common characterization of David; e.g., 1 Kgs 11:34, 36, 38; 2 Kgs 8:19; Ps 36:1; 78:70. See Ez 37:25.


* [35:1–15] After the fall of Jerusalem, Edom assisted the Babylonians in devastating the land and subduing the population in order to occupy part of Judah’s former territory. For this reason these oracles against Edom are found in the context of the city’s fall.

* [35:5] Final punishment: throughout this oracle the prophet echoes the threat against the mountains of Israel found in chaps. 6–7.

* [35:10] The two nations and the two lands: by presenting Edom’s excursion into the southern territory of Judah as its claim to both kingdoms, Ezekiel exaggerates Edom’s greed and arrogance. Lord was there: Edom’s betrayal of Judah becomes an attack on Judah’s God, the land’s sovereign. In 11:15 and 33:24, Ezekiel condemns Judahites who annex land that does not belong to them. Now the exiles in Babylon learn that even though God had left Jerusalem (chap. 11), he witnesses Edom’s insolence and pronounces judgment against it. Cf. 48:35, “The Lord is there!”

* [36:13] You devour your own people: i.e., the land destroys its own population; this phrase also occurs in Nm 13:32, where Israelite spies describe Canaan as “a land that devours its inhabitants.”

* [36:20–24] These verses make clear that Israel’s restoration is God’s initiative, independent of the people’s shame and repentance (v. 31). By their wickedness, Israel provoked the exile; its presence among the nations gave the impression that God could not protect his people. God’s gracious return of Israel to its land will restore his honor among these same nations.

* [36:25–26] God’s initiative to cleanse Israel (cf. 24:13–14) is the first act in the creation of a new people, no longer disposed to repeating Israel’s wicked past (chap. 20). To make this restoration permanent, God replaces Israel’s rebellious and obdurate interiority (“heart of stone”) with an interiority (“heart of flesh”) susceptible to and animated by God’s intentions (“my spirit,” v. 27).

* [37:1–14] This account is a figurative description of God’s creation of a new Israel. Even though that creation begins with the remains of the old Israel, the exiles under the image of dry bones, depicting a totally hopeless situation, the new Israel is radically different: it is an ideal people, shaped by God’s spirit to live the covenant faithfully, something the old Israel, exiles included, were unable to do. While this passage in its present context is not about the doctrine of individual or communal resurrection, many Jewish and Christian commentators suggest that the doctrine is foreshadowed here.

* [37:9] The Hebrew word rûah has multiple related meanings expressed by different English words: wind, spirit, breath. In this translation, rûah is rendered “spirit,” a powerful force that creates vision and insight (v. 1); “breath,” physical energy that quickens and enlivens (vv. 5–6); “wind,” invisible physical energy, sometimes destructive, sometimes invigorating (e.g., the rain-bearing winter winds), also a metaphor for restoration and new life (vv. 9–10); “my spirit,” a share in God’s power so the people observe the law that assures them life in the land (v. 14).

* [37:15–22] The symbolic action of joining two sticks into one continues Ezekiel’s description of God’s future saving action: the unification of Judah and Israel under an ideal ruler.

* [38:1–39:20] These three oracles against Gog (38:2–13; 14–23; 39:1–20) describe a mythic attack of God against a final enemy of his people sometime in the future. Like the oracles against the nations, their purpose is to strengthen Israel’s hope in God, since they end with God’s triumph on behalf of the people.

* [38:2] Gog: the name is symbolic, probably derived from Gyges, king of Lydia. The gloss Magog may be an Akkadian expression, mat-Gog, “the land of Gog.” Meshech and Tubal, as well as Gomer and Beth-togarmah (v. 6), were countries around the Black Sea, the northernmost countries known to the Israelites. The north was the traditional direction from which invasion was expected; cf. Jer 1:13–15.

* [38:12] Center: lit., “navel.” Many ancient peoples spoke of their own homelands as “the navel,” that is, the center of the earth.

* [38:15] Zaphon: cf. note on Jb 37:22.

* [39:11] The Valley of Abarim: in the Abarim mountains, east of the Jordan. “Abarim” plays on the word ’oberim, “travelers.” Hamon-Gog: “the horde of Gog.”

* [40:1–48:35] This lengthy vision of a new Temple and a restored Israel is dated in v. 1 to April 28, 573 B.C. The literary form of the vision is sometimes compared to a mandala, a sacred model through which one can move symbolically to reach the world of the divine. Ezekiel describes the Temple through its boundaries, entrances, and exits in chaps. 40–43; by its sacred and profane use and space in 44–46; and by its central place within the land itself in 47–48. The prophet could not have expected a literal fulfillment of much of what he described. The passage doubtless went through several editorial stages, both from the prophet and from later writers.

* [40:5] A cubit plus a handbreadth: a great cubit. The ordinary cubit consisted of six handbreadths; the great cubit, of seven. In measuring the Temple, a rod six great cubits long was used. The ordinary cubit was about one and a half feet, or, more exactly, 17.5 inches; the large cubit, 20.4 inches.

* [40:6–16] The gate facing east, leading into the outer court of the Temple, is described more fully than the north and south gates, which, however, have the same dimensions. On the west side of the outer court there is a large building instead of a gate (cf. 41:12).

* [40:17] The outer court: the court outside the Temple area proper, which had its own inner court (vv. 28–37).

* [40:28–37] The gates leading into the inner court of the Temple area correspond to the gates leading into the outer court, with the exception that their vestibules are on the outer rather than the inner side.

* [40:30] The reference to vestibules all around is uncertain, and the verse may have arisen as a partial repetition of v. 29.

* [40:46] Sons of Zadok: descendants of the priestly line of Zadok; cf. 2 Sm 15:24–29; 1 Kgs 1:32–34; 2:35.

* [40:48–41:15] The description of Ezekiel’s visionary Temple closely follows the description of the Temple of Solomon (1 Kgs 6), along with some crucial differences.

* [40:49–41:4] Vestibule…nave…holy of holies: the three divisions of the Temple building in progressing order of sanctity. The last is called “the inner sanctuary” in 1 Kgs 6.

* [41:6] The description of the three stories of rooms surrounding the Temple building can be compared with Solomon’s Temple in 1 Kgs 6:6; there a step-like or terraced retaining wall supported the Temple building so no beams or nails from these chambers would enter the Temple wall itself.

* [41:12] The building: the function of this structure behind the Temple is never specified.

* [41:22] A wooden altar: the altar of incense, standing in the nave at the entrance to the holy of holies.

* [42:5–6] The three rows of identical chambers, on different ground levels, necessarily had roofs on correspondingly different levels.

* [42:13] The function of these chambers is explained again in 46:19–20.

* [43:8] They placed their threshold against my threshold: in preexilic Jerusalem, the Temple and the palace belonged to the same complex of buildings; kings like Ahaz and Manasseh treated it as their private chapel for the religious practices Ezekiel condemns. In the new Israel the Temple is free, even spatially, from civil jurisdiction; cf. 45:7–8. This is an instance of Ezekiel’s broader program to separate the sacred from the secular.

* [43:13–17] The altar: like altars from Assyria and other parts of the ancient Near East, this altar has three parts: a base, a pedestal, and an upper block with a channel cut into the surface on all sides. The rim around the upper block (v. 17) stopped blood and other sacrificial material from falling to the ground.

* [44:3] Ezekiel imagines a scene like this: The prince stands at the eastern gate of the inner court while his sacrifice is being offered (46:2); he then goes to the vestibule of the outer court to eat the sacrificial meal. The closed outer gate on the eastern side signifies that the Lord has entered the Temple permanently, not to depart again.

* [44:7–14] According to Ezekiel, the Levites’ priestly role is reduced to the performance of menial tasks as punishment for their misdeeds (cf. vv. 10–14). This demotion was enforced during the restoration of Temple worship under Ezra and Nehemiah; this may explain the small number of Levites willing to return to Jerusalem after the exile.

* [44:19] Transmit holiness to the people: holiness was considered to have a physical quality that could be communicated from person to person. It is a danger to those who have not prepared themselves to be in God’s presence. The priests remove their ceremonial garments out of concern for the people.

* [44:29] Under the ban: dedicated to the Lord.

* [45:10–12] Besides the land monopoly fostered by royal greed and collusion with the wealthy (Mi 2:2; Is 3:12–15; 5:8–10), one grave social evil of preexilic Israel was dishonesty in business; cf. Hos 12:8; Am 8:5. Ephah, bath: see note on Is 5:10.

* [45:12] Mina: before the exile, a mina was worth fifty shekels; later, in imitation of Babylonian practice, its value increased to sixty shekels. A shekel weighed slightly less than half an ounce. A shekel’s monetary value depended on whether it was gold or silver.

* [45:14] Kor: a liquid and a dry measure, equal to a homer.

* [45:24] Hin: one sixth of the liquid measure known as a bath.

* [46:2–12] The prophet describes the inner eastern gateway opening on the inner court of the priests in front of the Temple itself where the altar of sacrifice stands. The people may watch the priests making offerings on sabbaths and feast days only by looking through the open gate; the prince, however, may stand inside the gate, in the vestibule on the edge of the inner court, to observe the offerings. Only priests could stand in the court itself.

* [46:17] The year of release: the jubilee year; cf. Lv 25:23–55.

* [46:20] Cf. note on 44:19.

* [47:1–12] The life and refreshment produced wherever the Temple stream flows evoke the order and abundance of paradise (cf. Gn 1:20–22; 2:10–14; Ps 46:5) and represent the coming transformation Ezekiel envisions for the exiles and their land. Water signifies great blessings and evidence of the Lord’s presence (cf. Jl 2:14).

* [47:8] The sea: the Dead Sea, in which nothing can live. This vision of the Temple stream which transforms places of death into places of life is similar in purpose to the oracle of dry bones in 37:1–14: it offers the exiles hope for the future.

* [47:10] From En-gedi to En-eglaim: En-gedi is about halfway down the western shore of the Dead Sea; En-eglaim may have been at its northern end.

* [47:13–20] These boundaries for a restored Israel correspond to the boundaries of the Davidic kingdom at its fullest extent; they are the “ideal boundaries” of the promised land; cf. Nm 34:3–12.

* [48:1–29] This distribution of the land among the tribes does not correspond to the geographical realities of Palestine. It is another idealizing element in Ezekiel’s representation of a restored and transformed Israel.

c. [3:6] cf. Mt 11:21.

d. [7:8] Ez 20:8, 13, 21.

j. [8:14] cf. Dn 11:37.

e. [10:14] cf. Gn 3:24.

c. [13:6] cf. Is 30:10.

f. [14:15] cf. Lv 26:22.

g. [14:16] cf. Ez 18:20.

i. [14:21] cf. Rev 6:8.

a. [16:2] cf. Ez 8:17.

c. [16:4] cf. Lk 2:2.

e. [16:9] cf. Ru 3:3.

f. [16:10] cf. Ps 45:14.

x. [16:40] cf. Ez 23:47; Jn 8:5, 7.

z. [16:45] cf. Ez 23:2.

d. [16:49] cf. Is 1:10; cf. Gn 49:24.

f. [16:55] cf. Ez 36:11.

h. [16:59] cf. Ez 17:19.

d. [17:10] cf. Ez 19:12.

j. [17:20] cf. Ez 12:13; 32:3.

l. [18:25] cf. Ez 33:20.

g. [19:13] cf. Ez 20:35.

a. [20:1] cf. Ez 8:1.

f. [20:9] cf. Ez 36:22.

l. [20:25] cf. Rom 1:28.

o. [20:29] cf. Ez 16:16.

x. [20:44] cf. Ez 36:22.

i. [21:30] cf. Ez 16:3.

c. [22:9] cf. Ez 18:11.

a. [23:1] cf. Ez 16.

g. [23:10] cf. Ez 16:37.

t. [23:49] cf. Ez 24:13.

a. [24:1] cf. Ez 8:1.

g. [24:18] cf. Ez 12:9.

k. [24:26] cf. Ez 33:22.

h. [25:14] cf. Ez 35:11.

d. [26:16] cf. Ez 32:10.

e. [26:17] cf. Ez 19:1.

f. [26:20] cf. Ez 31:14; 32:18, 24, 30.

b. [27:4] cf. Ez 28:1.

f. [27:13] cf. Ez 38:2; 39:1.

k. [27:27] cf. Ez 28:8.

c. [28:10] cf. Ez 32:19, 24.

k. [28:25] cf. Ez 20:41.

b. [29:3] cf. Ez 32:2.

f. [29:10] cf. Ez 30:4, 6.

a. [30:3] cf. Ez 7:7; Is 13:6.

c. [30:6] cf. Ez 29:10.

j. [30:24] cf. Ez 21:14.

a. [32:2] cf. Ez 19:1; 20:3.

i. [32:26] cf. Ez 27:13.

g. [33:12] cf. Ez 3:20.

d. [34:5] cf. Mk 6:34.

b. [36:4] cf. Ez 6:3.

f. [36:11] cf. Gn 1:22, 28.

s. [36:35] cf. Ez 28:13; 31:9.

c. [37:10] cf. Rev 11:11.

g. [38:15] cf. Ez 39:2.

a. [39:2] cf. Ez 32:30; 38:6, 15.

b. [39:5] cf. Ez 32:4.

f. [39:11] cf. Ez 38:2.

k. [39:27] cf. Ez 20:41.

d. [40:6] cf. Ez 8:16.

f. [40:17] cf. Ez 41:6; 42:1.

g. [40:35] cf. Ez 44:4; 47:2.

i. [40:39] cf. Ez 46:2.

b. [43:4] cf. Ez 10:19.

c. [43:5] cf. Ez 11:24.

g. [43:13] cf. Ex 20:24.

b. [46:7] cf. Nm 28:12.

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Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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