Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 11 (2011) - Review

Tooman, William A. and Michael A. Lyons (eds.), Transforming Visions: Transformations of Text, Tradition, and Theology in Ezekiel (Princeton Theological Monograph Series, 127; Eugene, Oreg.: Pickwick, 2010). Pp. xxv + 350. Softcover. US$42.00. ISBN 978-1-55635-285-0.

The present volume edited by William A. Tooman and Michael A. Lyons consists of ten essays on the creative use of texts, tradition, and theology in the book of Ezekiel. The first section of the book treats the prophet's transformation of antecedent texts, including the Holiness Code and Deuteronomy, and the second section treats Ezekiel's innovations relating to subjects in Israelite tradition and theology. The third and final section comprises two essays on the transformation of the book in the versions and the New Testament.

The subject of this volume reflects an increasing awareness of Ezekiel's knowledge and use of Israel's texts and traditions, due in large measure to the special attention given to Ezekiel's influences in the commentaries of Moshe Greenberg and Daniel I. Block.[1] Several recent studies have shown that Ezekiel does not mindlessly copy his sources, but in many cases creatively reformulates them. For example, in his recent monograph on Ezekiel's use of Leviticus 17–26, Lyons has convincingly demonstrated that the prophet adopts the language of the Holiness Code, but regularly modifies its locutions.[2] Similarly, Risa Levitt Kohn argues that Ezekiel draws from both the priestly and deuteronomic literature and fuses them to create a unique synthesis.[3] This phenomenon of transformation may be at work particularly in Ezekiel 16, which appears to be a rhetorical reapplication of the Song of Moses (Deut 32:1–43) to the prophet's own time.[4] The present volume represents a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on Ezekiel's use and adaptation of Israel's texts, traditions, and theology.

Tooman and Lyons have assembled a capable group of scholars to explore this important feature of the book. In addition to the editors themselves, contributors include Marvin A. Sweeney (foreword), Tova Ganzel, Jill Middlemas, Paul M. Joyce, Thomas Krüger, Paul R. Raabe, Daniel I. Block, Timothy Mackie, and Beate Kowalski.

In the first essay, “Transformation of Law: Ezekiel's Use of the Holiness Code (Leviticus 17–26),” Michael A. Lyons argues that the extensive literary links between the book of Ezekiel and the Holiness Code are best explained by the prophet's sustained borrowing from the language and concepts of the pre-existent priestly legislation. The essay represents a useful condensation of his larger work, From Law to Prophecy: Ezekiel's Use of the Holiness Code (cited above). Lyons presents sophisticated criteria for determining direction of literary dependence and successfully demonstrates that Ezekiel drew from the Holiness Code and not vice-versa. The main part of the essay documents the ways that the prophet uses and transforms his underlying text, which mainly fall within the categories of accusation, judgment, instruction, and hope. Lyons' studies on Ezekiel and the Holiness Code represent the definitive work on the subject to date, and all future discussions will need to interact with his work.

Tova Ganzel (“Transformation of Pentateuchal Descriptions of Idolatry”) investigates one area in which Ezekiel appears to be influenced more by Deuteronomy than the Holiness Code. In her analysis of Ezekiel's language for idolatry, Ganzel observes that the prophet primarily refers to Israel's idols with terms distinctive to Deuteronomy. In fact, only a few allusions to the idolatry terminology in the priestly legislation (Leviticus 26) can be identified. Instead, numerous literary links between Ezekiel and Deuteronomy lead her to believe that Ezekiel knew and purposefully drew from Deuteronomy for his terminology and conception of Israel's idolatry. In particular, she finds several links between the prophet's visions of idolatry in Ezekiel 8 and Moses' admonitions against idolatry in Deuteronomy 4. Ganzel's essay rightly challenges the common view that Ezekiel's marked priestly theology displays little or no influence from the Deuteronomic Torah.

In “Transformation of Israel's Hope: The Reuse of Scripture in the Gog Oracles,” William A. Tooman argues that the Gog oracles of Ezekiel 38–39 constitute a late addition to the book, a literary pastiche that draws together locutions from all over the Hebrew Bible, particularly the book of Ezekiel itself. He notes abundant links between the language and style of these chapters and the rest of the book, but interprets the pervasive Ezekielian style of the Gog oracles as a distinctive “Ezekielian stamp” created by their author. Tooman maintains that this author is not Ezekiel himself, offering three examples where Ezekielian locutions in chapters 38–39 are used in a (slightly) different sense than in the rest of the book. He then offers a detailed study of the alleged biblical sources underlying the Gog oracles. Tooman's theory is certainly intriguing, even if not absolutely compelling. One may question his three examples of locutions used differently in the rest of the book, none of which seem conclusive for establishing divergent authorship. Moreover, he has not sufficiently ruled out the possibility that some of the distinctive elements of Ezekiel 38–39 are instead due to redaction. Ultimately, future studies of the Gog oracles will have to judge whether Tooman's hypothesis best accounts for the distinctive elements of these chapters and their relationship to other biblical texts.

Jill Middlemas (“Transformation of the Image”) studies Ezekiel's use of imagery in three areas: the depiction of idols, the personification of Jerusalem and Samaria, and the use of anthropomorphism to represent Yahweh. In her view, each of these reflects a common attitude toward images. Drawing in part from the works of John Kutsko and Julie Galambush,[5] she observes that: Ezekiel employs innovative rhetorical strategies to deny divine status to idols; the personification of cities disappears after the fall of Jerusalem and plays no role in the restoration; and, the representation of Yahweh in the appearance of a human form (אדם) at the beginning of the book (1:26) fades to an emphasis on God's word at the end. It may be that in each instance Ezekiel distances the image from the reality, as Middlemas argues. Yet, it is questionable whether the prophet's treatment of such diverse subjects as material idols, literary personification, and divine anthropomorphism can be grouped together and ascribed to Ezekiel's singular attitude toward “images.”

In his essay, “Ezekiel and Moral Transformation,” Paul M. Joyce builds upon his earlier work on individual and corporate responsibility.[6] According to Joyce, Ezekiel's innovation in the moral sphere does not lie in a new emphasis on the responsibility of the individual before God as many have thought, for “Ezekiel's overriding concern is consistently to explain a disaster that is national and thereby collective” (p. 144). The collective focus is evident in the often-misunderstood ch. 18, where Joyce points out that the three hypothetical figures represent not individuals but rather corporate entities, namely, generations. Instead, Joyce finds Ezekiel's distinctive contribution elsewhere: the prophet's theocentric view of moral transformation. In Ezekiel's mind, Israel's moral transformation will not give rise to their restoration; rather, a divinely initiated restoration will effect Israel's moral transformation.

The essay by Thomas Krüger (“Transformation of History in Ezekiel 20”) examines the distinctive view of Israel's history presented in ch. 20. He draws attention to some distinctive elements of the prophet's “historiography” relative to other biblical traditions and even other passages in Ezekiel, treating such topics as guilt and punishment, repentance, covenant, and Yahweh's concern for his name. Krüger offers many perceptive observations on Ezekiel's creative account of the past. In at least one instance, Ezek 20:25–26, Ezekiel's history may not be as revisionist as he contends. Krüger adopts the most common interpretation of these verses, namely, that Yahweh gave Israel bad laws in order that he might defile them. However, Kelvin Friebel has convincingly argued that the no-good חקים and משׁפטים of v. 25 do not refer to divine laws at all.[7]

Paul R. Raabe (“Transforming the International Status Quo: Ezekiel's Oracles against the Nations”) offers a brief study on the oracles against the nations in the book of Ezekiel. The essay does not demonstrate the prophet's transformation of texts or traditions per se. Raabe introduces prophetic oracles against nations generally before turning to those in Ezekiel. He summarizes the oracles in chs. 25–32 and then treats some significant historical questions, such as the justification and purpose of oracles against foreign nations and the rationale for preserving them for subsequent generations. The essay provides a helpful introduction to the subject and may be especially useful for students in a class on the prophets or the book of Ezekiel.

The essay by Daniel I. Block (“Transformation of Royal Ideology in Ezekiel”) considers the prophet's attitude toward the history of the Israelite monarchy and its prospects for the future. Block finds that Ezekiel displays a certain antipathy towards Judah's kings, since they have generally failed to rule according to the standard of justice and righteousness and have not cared for their people (e.g., 34:1–10). Ezekiel will not even legitimate Israel's rulers by referring to them with the word מלך. Instead, he consistently uses the term נשׂיא, according to Block, emphasizing that Yahweh is Israel's true king (cf. 20:33) and the נשׂיאים his appointed rulers. A large portion of the essay comprises a careful analysis of the allusions to Judah's last kings in the poetic oracles in chs. 17 and 19 and the tri-generational case study of ch. 18. Then, Block turns to Ezekiel's depiction of the future of the Israelite monarchy, treating the hopeful ending of ch. 17 (vv. 22–24), the messianic passages predicting a new David in chs. 34 and 37, and the role of the נשׂיא in the restoration program of chs. 40–48. Block's close attention to these passages reveals that in Ezekiel's restored Jerusalem Yahweh will be king over his people with a נשׂיא as his under-shepherd, both ruling in justice and righteousness.

In “Transformation in Ezekiel's Textual History: Ezekiel 7 in the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint,” Timothy Mackie makes an intertextual connection between the redaction history of Ezekiel 7 and the oracles of Daniel 7–12. After noting other links between these two texts, Mackie draws attention to a series of compositional expansions in the MT version of Ezekiel 7 that introduce an agent of judgment called the צפרה (vv. 7:5b–7a, 10b–c). Following P.-M. Bogaert, he relates this figure to the “he-goat” (צפיר) of Dan 8:5–12. Mackie convincingly shows that the additions in vv. 12–14 belong to this same level of redaction, since the three-fold mention of המונה (“its horde”) most naturally refers back to the preceding צפרה, thereby identifying it as the horde of the צפרה. Since the editors sought to relate the judgment in Ezekiel 7 to the events of Daniel 7–12, this example brilliantly demonstrates the close relationship between redaction and inner-biblical interpretation in the Second Temple period. Mackie attributes this intertextual phenomenon to a new “canon consciousness” or concern to relate biblical texts in light of the emerging collection of Scripture.

In the final essay, “Transformation of Ezekiel in John's Revelation,” Beate Kowalski provides an overview of John's use of the book of Ezekiel in his Apocalypse. The essay follows her more extensive study published in German.[8] After a general introduction to John's use of the Old Testament, Kowalski discusses the ways that John alludes to Ezekiel and transforms its language, structure, and content. She finds John's use of the book selective at times, citing, for example, John's allusion to Ezekiel's renewed Jerusalem, but neglect of the cultic instructions and building code for the new temple. Ultimately, Kowalski concludes that the book of Ezekiel influenced John more than any other book of the Hebrew Bible.

Overall this volume of essays represents an important contribution to the study of this prophetic book and further reinforces the increasing awareness that Ezekiel drew extensively from the deep reservoir of Israel's texts and traditions.

Jason Gile, Wheaton College

[1] Moshe Greenberg, Ezekiel 1–20: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 22; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983); idem, Ezekiel 21–37: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 22A; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1997); Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel, vol. 1, Chapters 1–24 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997); idem, The Book of Ezekiel, vol. 2, Chapters 25–48 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998).reference

[2] Michael A. Lyons, From Law to Prophecy: Ezekiel's Use of the Holiness Code (LHBOTS 507; New York: T&T Clark, 2009).reference

[3] Risa Levitt Kohn, A New Heart and a New Soul: Ezekiel, the Exile and the Torah (JSOTSup 358; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002).reference

[4] See my article, “Ezekiel 16 and the Song of Moses: A Prophetic Transformation?” JBL 130 (2011): 87–108.reference

[5] John F. Kutsko, Between Heaven and Earth: Divine Presence and Absence in the Book of Ezekiel (Biblical and Judaic Studies from the University of California, San Diego 7; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2000); Julie Galambush, Jerusalem in the Book of Ezekiel: The City as Yahweh's Wife (SBLDS 130; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992). reference

[6] Paul Joyce, Divine Initiative and Human Response in Ezekiel (JSOTSup 51; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989).reference

[7] Kelvin G. Friebel, “The Decrees of Yahweh That Are ‘Not Good’: Ezekiel 20:25–26,” in Seeking Out the Wisdom of the Ancients: Essays Offered to Honor Michael V. Fox on the Occasion of His Sixty-Fifth Birthday (ed. Ronald L. Troxel, Kelvin G. Friebel, and Dennis R. Magary; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2005), 21–36. reference

[8] Beate Kowalski, Die Rezeption des Propheten Ezechiel in der Offenbarung des Johannes (SBB 52; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2004). reference