Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 5 (2004-2005) - Review

Stephen L. Cook and Corrine L. Patton, eds., Ezekiel’s Hierarchical World: Wrestling with a Tiered Reality (Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series 31; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature Press, 2004).  Pp. xiii + 288.  Paper, US $39.95.  ISBN 1-58983-136-5.

            The core of this valuable collection consists of twelve revised seminar papers presented at the Ezekiel Consultation of the SBL chaired by Katheryn Pfisterer Darr from 1993 to 1995.  In the Introduction, the editors make a persuasive case that hierarchies are important for the order and integrity of reality. The concluding section consists of balanced, critical responses to all the essays by Daniel I. Block and Steven S. Tuell.

            Five essays address the issue of whether Ezekiel was primarily a priest or a prophet.  Friedrich Fechter (“Priesthood in the Exile according to the Book of Ezekiel,” pp. 27-41) claims that postexilic priestly redactors shaped the book’s picture of the priest.  However, Ian Duguid (“Putting Priests in Their Place: Ezekiel’s Contribution to the History of Old Testament Priesthood,” pp. 43-59) extracts data from the book of Ezekiel to reconstruct Ezekiel’s understanding of the pre-exilic, exilic, and post-exilic roles of the priest.  With this background, he claims that the exilic priest’s primary role was to distinguish between the sacred and the common. Suspending redaction-critical concerns about the historical Ezekiel, Corrine Patton (“Priest, Prophet, and Exile: Ezekiel as a Literary Construct,” pp. 73-89) allows the final form of the text to state that Ezekiel is primarily a prophet in chaps. 1–39, but primarily a priest in chaps. 40–48.  The upshot of this arrangement is that by the end of the narrative Ezekiel the priest has become “a symbol of hope for the whole exiled audience after the fall of the city” (p. 83).  By contrast, Baruch Schwartz (“A Priest Out of Place: Reconsidering Ezekiel’s Role in the History of the Israelite Priesthood,” pp. 61-71) states that Ezekiel was not a priest in the exile because he argues that a priest was by definition one who functioned within the sacrificial cult. He claims that Ezekiel would have seen no need for a priest to distinguish between the sacred and the common if there were no sacrificial cult.  Risa Levitt Kohn, (“‘With a Mighty Hand and an Outstretched Arm’: The Prophet and the Torah in Ezekiel 20,” pp. 159-68) through her analysis of Ezekiel’s use of P and D traditions in Ezekiel 20 claims that this narrative highlights Ezekiel’s role as a prophet like Moses.

The next five essayists address problems arising from Ezekiel’s view of Yhwh as an angry, punishing hierarch concerned about the glory of his name. Julie Galambush (“God’s Land and Mine: Creation as Property in the Book of Ezekiel,” pp. 91-108) notes that Ezekiel personifies the land of Israel as a body.  The resulting solidarity of the inhabitants with the soil of their homeland was undercut by the exile. She claims that for the anxious exiles the forces of chaos, as symbolized by wild animals and arrogant trees, called into question the extent of Yhwh’s power.  Keith Carley (“From Harshness to Hope: The Implications for Earth of Hierarchy in Ezekiel,” 109-26) and Norman Habel (“The Silence of the Lands: The Ecojustice Implications of Ezekiel’s Judgment Oracles,” pp. 127-40) dismiss Ezekiel’s image of a vengeful, egotistical God as a dominating hierarch who pays no attention to the voice of the earth.  However, Daniel L. Smith-Christopher (“Ezekiel in Abu Ghraib: Rereading Ezekiel 16:37-39 in the Context of Imperial Conquest,” pp. 141-57) urges the reader to interpret the shocking imagery of divine punishment in Ezek 16:37-39 in its capacity to explain the traumatic experience of a prisoner of war.  As male prisoner, Ezekiel could identify with the woman Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16 who was abused by her imperial conquerors. 

  The remaining essays address the issue of the function of hierarchy in creating cosmic order.  David L. Petersen (“Creation and Hierarchy in Ezekiel: Methodological Perspectives and Theological Prospects,” pp. 169-78) argues that creation traditions play no role in the book of Ezekiel, where Yhwh is portrayed as a God who demands that his sovereignty be acknowledged. Stephen L. Cook (“Cosmos, Kabod, and Cherub: Ontological and Epistemological Hierarchy in Ezekiel,” pp. 179-97) interprets the cherub as a mythic figure (like Mercurius or Athtar) with a pivotal role in the cosmic hierarchy.  As a symbol, the cherub provides access to the ontological structure of reality through reflection on typical human experience.  Katheryn Pfisterer Darr (“Proverb Performance and Transgenerational Retribution in Ezekiel,” pp. 199-223) presents a theoretical model to understand more specifically the form and function of the proverb in Ezek 18:2, the performance of which raises a debate over the justice of God’s punishment by the exile.

This volume is indispensable for those who wish to understand the current state of Ezekielian studies.  A select bibliography is provided as well as indexes of authors, primary sources, and subjects.

Dale Laundervile
St. Johns University