Ezekiel 12

Ezekiel 12

Form Structure and Setting of Ezekiel 12: 1-7

Ezekiel 12:1–20 constitutes a literary unit consisting of two divine commands to engage in sign-acts, together with statements of their interpretation. Each has its own introductory formula of the prophet’s reception of a divine message, in vv 1 and 17.

Indeed, the two elements of command and interpretation in the first case are demarcated as separate; but consecutive events by a message-reception formula in v 8, rather like that in 24:20, after 24:15.

Prophetic signs and their meaning

The literary form of prophetic signs and their meaning enveloped within a divine speech was encountered earlier in 3:24b–5:17. Within this unit the second case, in vv 17–20, follows the pattern that appears there. The first case, in vv 1–16, diverges from that pattern in two ways. First, the sequence of divine command and interpretation interrupted in v 7 by a narrative report of Ezekiel’s performance of the command, as in 24:18. Second, use is made in vv 9–11 of a question-and-answer format to link the command and the interpretation. This format occurs elsewhere in the book with this function, in 21:12; 24:19–21; 37:18–19.

Here, as in chap. 24, it follows a description of the performance of the sign-act. Within vv 1–16, the command to the prophet to engage in the symbolic act in vv 2–6 falls into three parts. Greenberg has observed that the introductory vv 2–3 make up a sub-unit marked by the device of inclusion, concerning the seeing of the rebellious community. A full statement of the sign follows in vv 4–6a.

Stages of the sign Ezekiel 12

The two stages of the sign are given in v 4; There are the three elements of the second stage which supplied in vv 5–6a. Verse 6b is briefly given the general significance. Ezekiel’s role as a “sign/symbol” recalls the need for the community to “see” expressed in vv 2–3, while the fivefold “before their eyes” throughout vv 3–6a has echoed “eyes” in v 2. The report of the performance follows in v 7, echoing the two stages and reiterating two of the three elements in the second stage.

The basic issues of the whole section (vv 1–16) are whether and to what extent the text steps beyond the expected bounds of the deportation of the people of Jerusalem into the different topic of the flight, capture, and blinding of Zedekiah and applies to the latter topic the elements of the sign-act relating to exile.

Prophetic sign-act interpretation Ezekiel 12

The following sign-act and interpretation in 12:17–20 clearly align with 4:16–17 in content and so presumably with the sign-act of 4:9–12 that depicted for the hostages the rigors of the coming siege. However, Hölscher, implicitly followed by Fohrer and Fuhs, envisioned a post-587 setting, relating not to the besieged residents of Jerusalem but to those left in the city after the deportation (cf. 33:23–29).

This reconstruction depends too heavily on an assumption of historical continuity between the two sign-acts in 12:1–20. As to the geographical setting; the expression “the people of the land;” if it use in v 19 to describe the addressees; (rather than those “concerning” whom the oracle is spoken) might be taken as residents of Judah and Jerusalem (cf. 7:27). The issue is clearly germane to the hypothesis of Ezekiel’s Judean ministry. Were the evidence stronger elsewhere, the passage could well used in its support. An exilic provenance is more probable.


            12:1–6             Explanation and instructions

            12:7                 Ezekiel’s enactment of the sign

            12:8–16           Interpretation

            12:17–20         The sign of a meal consumed with anxiety

            12:18               Instructions

            12:19–20         Interpretation

Textual notes Ezekiel 12:1-7

Verse 2

a Following the reading of certain manuscripts like the LXX, Syriac, TargumMss and Vulgate, BHS suggests to read <y]n~z+a*w+ “and ears” instead of MT’s <y]n~z+a* simply “ears,” putting conjunction w+ at the beginning of the word.

Verse 3

a The word ahl@g=W “and depart” is lacking in LXX* and BHS suggests to delete it for it thinks it as a dittography (Dittography is the accidental, erroneous act of repeating a letter, or word, or a phrase by a scribe or copyist).

Verse 4

a The word <h#yn}yu@l= “in their sight” (literally, “to their eyes”) is lacking in the LXX* and Syriac version of the Old Testament.

Verse 5

a BHS suggests to read t*ax*y`w+ “and you went out” which is consec+ Qal perfect against the MT’s consec+ Hiphil perfect.

Verse 6

a The LXX and Syriac put this word hf*l*u&B* “in the dark” before the copula against the word order of the MT, so that the translation might have been “In their sight you shall lift it upon your shoulder in the dark, you shall bring out…”

b BHS suggests to read MT’s ayx!ot which is Hiphil imperfect as ax@t@ which is Qal imperfect following the readings of the LXX, Theodotion, Syriac and Targum. Which also suggested in verse 5a.

Verse 7

a-a The LXX reads kata panta o{sa eneteilato moi, kai “according to all that he commanded me; and” as against MT’s yl^K@ yt!yW}x% rv#a&K^ “as I was commanded.”

b The word “in the hand” is lacking in LXX* and Syriac. BHS also doubts about its originality and suggests the idea that it may be later addition.

c cf. Note on verse 6a.

d BHS suggests to read as yt!ax*y` “I went out” which is Qal perfect against the MT’s Hiphil perfect meaning “I brought out.”