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Ezekiel 14,10–11: ‘The Beatings Will Continue until Morals Improve’?

Ezekiel 14,10–11: ‘The Beatings Will Continue until Morals Improve’? 1Introduction“God kills in order to save.”1 This is Walther Zimmerli’s conclusion to his analysis of Ez 14,1–11. Other commentators offer similar assessments.2 These are attempts to account for how V. 11 relates to the preceding verses, and in particular V. 10:ונשׂאו עונם כעון הדרשׁ כעון הנביא יהיה׃ למען לא־יתעו עוד בית־ישׂראל מאחרי ולא־יטמאו עוד בכל־פשׁעיהם והיו לי לעם ואני אהיה להם לאלהים נאם אדני יהוה׃14,10 “And they will bear their punishment – like the punishment of the inquirer, so will be the punishment of the prophet – 11 in order that the house of Israel will no longer go astray from me and will no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions. And they will be my people, and I will be their God” – utterance of Lord Yhwh.But do these interpretations of Ez 14,10–11 adequately represent the book’s outlook regarding the people’s moral identity and its transformation? Is it true that the spiritual restoration envisioned in the book will be brought about by harsher punishments – “the beatings will continue until morals improve”? Will killing off a few idolatrous inquirers and persuadable prophets result in a restored covenant relationship? In this essay I will assess arguments about the relation of V. 11 to the preceding verses, and will argue that V. 11 has been composed in light of other passages in the book that emphasize divine transformation in the process of spiritual restoration.2The Contents and Organization of Ezekiel 14,1–11Ezekiel 14,1–8 concern Yhwh’s response to the one who comes to consult a prophet while also contemplating גלולים. After a narrative introduction in V. 1 that establishes the setting and characters, V. 2 depicts a response that begins with a Prophetic Word Formula. The material falls into three sections: V. 1–3, a statement of Yhwh’s response to idolatrous inquirers who have come to Ezekiel; V. 4–5, a legal scenario describing idolatrous inquirers who come to a prophet and Yhwh’s negative response; V. 6–8, a call to turn plus a more elaborate description of idolatrous inquirers and Yhwh’s negative response, concluding with a Recognition Formula. Each of these sections are linked by repeated vocabulary. The descriptions of Yhwh’s negative response are increasingly forceful, beginning with an ironic “answer” in V. 4.6 and ending with the “cutting off” of the inquirer in V. 8. The use of legal terminology familiar to us from Lev 17,3 the combination of this legal terminology with prophetic terminology,4 and the use of patterned repetition with variation5 suggest that this material is not a transcript of prophetic speech, but a well-crafted literary composition. Verses 1–8 form a cohesive and coherent unit, and could stand on their own; strictly speaking, V. 9–11 are not essential to their argument.Nevertheless, V. 1–8 do raise issues that are not fully addressed if these verses stand alone.6 Given that they depict the scenario of the one who inquires of Yhwh by a prophet while contemplating other deities, this raises the question: what kind of prophet would allow himself to be consulted by such a person? The answer is: only an easily swayed (V. 9, יפתה) prophet, one who tells people what they wish to hear (cf. chap. 13).7 Verse 9 therefore grows quite naturally out of the problem presented in V. 1–8,8 and the articular “the prophet” (V. 9a, הנביא) presumes the scenario presented earlier. Verse 9 also attributes the prophet’s suggestibility to Yhwh himself, as a means of entrapment to bring about the prophet’s destruction. Verse 10 represents an explicit attempt to link V. 1–8 and V. 9 together even more closely, emphasizing the parity of the judgment on the inquirer of V. 1–8 and the prophet of V. 9. Zimmerli argued that the use of legal language throughout V. 1–9 leads the reader to expect a concluding statement precisely of the kind we see in V. 10.9 He (and others) concluded that V. 1–11 are a compositional unity,10 though some have taken V. 9–11 as a later addition.11 But it is the relationship of V. 11 to the preceding material that for me raises interesting questions about conceptual unity. The first word in V. 11 (למען, “in order that”) appears to subordinate the rest of the verse to the preceding material – but is this in fact the case?3The Relationship between V. 10 and V. 11A glance at the history of interpretation will reveal that there is a remarkably wide range of perspectives on the relationship between V. 10 and 11. They can be broadly categorized into three positions: first, the position that V. 11 expresses the result of V. 10; second, the position that only V. 11a expresses the result of V. 10; and third, the position that V. 11 does not express the result of V. 10.3.1Position One: V. 11ab Is Subordinate to, and Expresses the Result of, V. 10Those who see V. 11 as subordinate to V. 10 vary considerably as to how punishment is believed to result in spiritual restoration. First, there are those who claim that Yhwh’s judgment is somehow redemptive in nature. In the introduction above, I noted Zimmerli’s claim that “God kills in order to save.” Regarding V. 10–11, he furthermore states: “Here, as the final goal of Yahweh’s judgment, the restoration of the covenant is wholeheartedly affirmed.”12 Precisely how judgment results in a restored covenant is not entirely clear; Zimmerli repeatedly refers to this as a “mystery.”13 Similarly, according to Daniel Block, V. 11 “serves not only to declare Yahweh’s purpose in his judgment, but also to offer a splendid ray of hope for the future. Although Yahweh must deal harshly with his people, his objectives are redemptive.”14 Again, it remains unclear how judgment is supposedly “redemptive.”15Second, there are those who argue that Yhwh’s judgment is purgative in nature: once the idolatrous inquirers and persuadable prophets are exterminated from the people, the covenant relationship is restored. Darr and Kraetzschmar are representative of this position,16 and Körting (who argues that the guilt of the inquirer and the prophet leads to the defilement of the community) seems to be as well.17Third, there are those who argue that the judgment of V. 10 functions as a deterrent to Israel, terrifying them into turning from idolatry and/or preventing them from idolatry in the first place. This allows Yhwh’s goal of a covenant relationship to exist unhindered. Hölscher, Allen, Pohlmann and others are representative of this position.18Fourth, there are those who argue that the judgment of V. 10 has a pedagogical function. According to Greenberg, “God’s immediate punitive purpose has an educative final aim – to bring the errants back to him.”19 A rather different understanding of pedagogy is espoused by Odell. According to her, it is not punishment per se that leads to restoration, but Yhwh’s sovereign manipulation of prophets and questioners (V. 9) that leads the people to recognize his sovereignty.20Fifth, according to Ewald, the punishment of V. 10 has a diagnostic function: Yhwh makes an example of those he punishes in order to “take hold of the rest by the heart” and determine whether they can be rehabilitated.21It seems to me that there are a number of difficulties in taking the restoration in V. 11 as dependent on the punishment in V. 10. First, the idea that the punishment in V. 10 has a redemptive function is problematized by the fact that divine judgment is never depicted as redemptive in the book of Ezekiel. It may sometimes bring about recognition of Yhwh; but such recognition is also attributed to e.g. Ammonites and Philistines (25,7.17), and is clearly not redemptive in these instances.22 At the individual level, divine judgment simply results in death (e.g., 9,5–6; 11,7–11.13; 17,15–16; 18,20; 23,46–47) or exclusion (e.g., 13,9). At a larger level, divine judgment actually creates problems: it stands in tension with Yhwh’s oath to bring Israel out of Egypt into the land (20,6 vs. 20,8.13.15.23.32),23 and leads to the profanation of Yhwh’s name in exile (36,17–20). Conversely, when spiritual transformation is described in Ezekiel, it is due to Yhwh’s gift of a unified heart and new spirit (11,19–20; 36,26–27) or to Yhwh’s cleansing and deliverance from sin (16,63; 36,25.29; 37,23).24 And when the covenant formula is mentioned elsewhere (11,19–20; 36,25–28; 37,23.27), it is always linked with transformative action rather than judgment.Second, the idea that divine punishment successfully functions as a purgative presumes an optimistic outlook on the people in which only a few “bad apples” are to blame – here, the idolatrous inquirers and persuadable prophets.25 But as Zimmerli pointed out, such an outlook is excluded here in 14,1–11 by the accusation in V. 5 that the entire “House of Israel” is estranged from Yhwh and stands under threat of divine punishment.26 Moreover, such an optimistic outlook is excluded elsewhere by passages such as Ez 2,3–5; 3,7; 12,1–2; 20,30–31, which depict the prophet’s contemporaries as chronically rebellious.Third, the idea that divine punishment is a deterrent that can successfully regulate Israelite behaviour27 seems implausible as an outlook in the book of Ezekiel. Punishments that one would imagine to be successful deterrents are not: in Ez 18,2, the condition of exile is being all-too-easily explained away in the proverb about sour grapes. And in Ez 23,5–11, Jerusalem sees but is not deterred by the destruction of Samaria; instead, it attempts to out-do its sister-city in unfaithful behaviour. But more importantly, the purpose of punishment is never described as a deterrent in Ezekiel, in contrast to the depictions of punishment in e.g. Num 26,10; Dtn 19,(16–)20; Am 4,6–11.Fourth, Greenberg’s thesis that divine punishment is educational is problematized by the fact that the “errants” he identifies as being educated are in fact those who are being killed by Yhwh (V. 8, “I will set my face against that man … I will cut him off”;28 V. 9, “I will stretch out my hand against him and destroy him”). And with respect to Odell’s thesis: why would we expect the people to learn from and be transformed by Yhwh’s manipulation of prophets if they have not learned from his other even more catastrophic actions?Fifth, Ewald’s thesis that the punishment of V. 10 has a diagnostic function anachronistically attributes a positive sense to the word “capture” (תפשׂ) in V. 5. But the images associated with this word in ancient Israelite and Second Temple-period texts are thoroughly negative.29 The verb תפשׂ is regularly used for the capture of cities in battle (Dtn 20,19; Jos 8,8; 2 Kön 14,7; 16,9; 18,13), for the capture of individuals in battle (Jos 8,23; 1 Sam 15,8; 23,26; 2 Kön 14,13; Ez 12,13; 19,8–9), and even for sexual assault (Dtn 22,28). Our earliest extant interpretations of Ez 14,5 are found in LXX and 1QHa 12.15–21, which understood תפשׂ as punitive and not restorative.30 It is only in the Targum that we find the first attempt to soften the harshness of this image.31To sum up: the claims that the punishment in V. 10 has a purgative, deterrent, pedagogical or diagnostic function do not take into account the book’s pessimistic outlook on the people’s moral identity. As I will demonstrate below, V. 11 has a close literary connection with passages that emphasize divine transformation in the process of spiritual restoration.3.2Position Two: Only V. 11a Is Related to V. 10The second position – that only V. 11a is dependent on V. 10 – is represented by Georg Fohrer, who takes V. 9–11aα as a later addition to V. 1–8. He sees the punishment described in V. 10 as a deterrent intended to prevent the apostasy described in V. 11aα (he understands V. 11aβ is a “supplementary gloss”). Fohrer takes the description of the restored covenant in V. 11b as a further addition, quoting 11,20.32Fohrer’s identification of V. 11b as a gloss suggests that he feels it problematic to link the covenant formula to Yhwh’s punitive action. However, I am not convinced that he fully succeeds in either explaining the problem or in offering a full solution. First, Fohrer’s view that the punishment in V. 10 is a deterrent is subject to the same criticism that I raised earlier. Second, if V. 11b is a “gloss” that quotes 11,20, what is the redactor’s motive for adding it here? This remains unexplained. But as I will argue below, I believe Fohrer was on the right track with his comparison of 14,11 to 11,20.3.3Position Three: V. 11 Does Not Express the Result of V. 10The third position – those who see V. 11 as unrelated to the punishment in V. 10 – is represented by Rudolf Mosis, John Wevers, and Keith Carley, and Paul Joyce. According to Mosis, V. 11 cannot be logically related to the statement of V. 10 that the punishment of the inquirer and the punishment of the prophet will be the same. How can the equality of punishment (V. 10b) guarantee the absence of straying and rebellion (V. 11)?33 Therefore, the statement “in order that the house of Israel may no longer go astray …” (V. 11) is for Mosis directly subordinate to the command in V. 6 to speak “to the house of Israel,” and indirectly envisions the “goal and result” of its urging to “turn from your idols.”34I would certainly agree with Mosis that the future faithfulness of Israel and restored covenant relationship envisioned in V. 11 have nothing to do with the statement in V. 10b about the equality of punishment. But as far as I know, no one has suggested that it does. Those who take V. 11 as dependent on V. 10 understand it to be dependent on the first clause (stating that inquirers and prophets will be punished) rather than on the second clause (stating that their punishments would be equivalent) – and it is not difficult to find examples of similar syntactic constructions.35John Wevers and Keith Carley come to a result similar to Mosis, but by means of an argument about the text’s formation.36 They reconstruct V. 4–5.8 as an original oral prophecy and V. 9–10 as an Ezekielian extension to the original prophecy.37 They take V. 6.7.11 as later additions.38 In their reconstruction, the effect of adding V. 6.11 is to turn an original oracle of judgment into something hopeful: they understand V. 6 as interpreting V. 5 in a positive manner, and V. 11 as envisioning the result of the “turning” spoken of in V. 6. Thus Wevers and Carley understand the word למען in V. 11 not as immediately subordinate to V. 10, but as connected in a rather broad sense to an idea associated with V. 6.It seems to me, first, that Wevers and Carley are overly optimistic about our ability to reconstruct prophetic speech from behind what is generally acknowledged to be an exceedingly literary text.39 Second, they appear to be working with a form-critical assumption that a proclamation of judgment and an appeal to turn are incompatible,40 and on this basis isolate both V. 6 and 11 as only loosely and secondarily connected to the surrounding material. Third, their claim that V. 6 “specifies the purpose of V. 5”41 attributes a positive meaning to the word “capture” (תפשׂ) that is, as I argued above, anachronistic. Finally, the claims of Mosis, Wevers, and Carley that the future faithfulness of Israel (V. 11) is envisioned as the “goal and result” of Yhwh’s command to speak about turning (V. 6) is one that seems foreign to the rest of the book, which does not depict “turning” as a realistic response to the prophet’s message. In fact, the book takes a consistently negative position on the people’s response to the prophet.42 Furthermore, a number of scholars have convincingly argued that the book of Ezekiel reflects a pessimistic stance on human moral agency43 and the possibility of repentance.44The last representative of the position that V. 11 is not dependent on V. 10 is Paul Joyce, who (as far as I can tell) is the only commentator to explicitly remark on the tension between the judgment in V. 9–10 and the restored relationship described in V. 11. He ascribes this tension to the prophet himself: “YHWH cannot, it seems, allow the ‘cutting off’ of Israel to be the last word…. While this verse could be seen as a more optimistic addition, it is better understood as illustrating the tensions within Ezekiel’s perception of the divine purposes.”45 However, the function of the word למען remains unclear. Still, it seems that Joyce feels there is a gap in the logic of the passage – and this highlights the issue I am attempting to explain.4Ezekiel 14,11 as FortschreibungHow then is V. 11 related to the preceding material? First, I would agree with Wevers, Carley, and Joyce that the למען of V. 11 is not directly dependent on V. 10 (though I would disagree that it goes back to V. 6).Second, it seems clear that a faithful house of Israel and a restored covenant relationship would by definition be free from the idolatry and false prophecy described in V. 1–10. But while V. 11 envisions Yhwh’s ultimate goal, the punishment in V. 10 should not be understood as a description of the means to achieve this goal. Verse 11 envisions the state of affairs after the problems described in V. 1–10 are solved, but it does not tell us how the problems are solved.Third, building on a number of commentators who have noted the similarity of 14,11 to 37,23,46 I want to go further and propose that V. 11 was actually composed in light of 37,23.47 Note the identical vocabulary in the two passages:למען לא־יתעו עוד בית־ישׂראל מאחרי ולא־יטמאו עוד בכל־פשׁעיהם והיו לי לעם ואני אהיה להם לאלהים נאם אדני יהוה׃14,11 in order that the house of Israel will no longer go astray from me and will no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions. And they will be my people, and I will be their God – utterance of Lord Yhwh.ולא יטמאו עוד בגלוליהם ובשׁקוציהם ובכל פשׁעיהם והושׁעתי אתם מכל מושׁבתיהם אשׁר חטאו בהם וטהרתי אותם והיו־לי לעם ואני אהיה להם לאלהים׃37,23 And they will no longer defile themselves with their idols and with their detestable things and with all their transgressions.48 And I will save them from all their apostasies49 in which they have sinned, and I will purify them. And they will be my people, and I will be their God.It seems to me that Ez 14,11 is an instance of Fortschreibung. I think we must envision a scribe who reads 14,1–10, remembers 37,23 and sees it as the solution to the problems in 14,1–10, and then writes V. 11 in light of this. The statement in 37,23 supplies the missing information needed to explain how Israel’s transformation is brought about. It is only after Yhwh saves and purifies his people from their transgressions that the covenant relationship will be restored. The word “in order that” in V. 11 presumes Yhwh’s transformative action in 37,23, and perhaps not coincidentally mirrors the syntax and wording of 11,20 and its relationship to 11,19:ונתתי להם לב אחד ורוח חדשׁה אתן בקרבכם והסרתי לב האבן מבשׂרם ונתתי להם לב בשׂר׃ למען בחקתי ילכו ואת־משׁפטי ישׁמרו ועשׂו אתם והיו־לי לעם ואני אהיה להם לאלהים׃11,19–20 And I will give them a single heart, and I will put a new spirit within them.50 And I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, in order that they will walk in my statutes, and will keep my ordinances and do them. And they will be my people, and I will be their God.Furthermore, the first two clauses of 14,11 take up the two individuals described in V. 1–8.9 and transform them by metonymy into larger behavioural problems to be solved. The first clause in V. 11 employs the verb תעה, used in Jes 9,14–15; Jer 23,13.32; Mi 3,5 to accuse prophets of misleading Israel. Thus Ez 14,11aα “no longer go astray” (לא־יתעו עוד) envisions freedom from bad prophetic leadership of the kind described in V. 9. The second clause in Ez 14,11 uses the verb טמא, which is frequently used to describe the effects of idolatry (so 37,23; see also 20,7.18.31; 22,3.4; 23,7.30). So V. 11aβ “no longer defile themselves” envisions freedom from the idolatry that is described in V. 1–8.5Conclusion and Significance of FindingsThe syntax of Ez 14,11 initially seems to suggest that the punishment in V. 10 will be the cause of Israel’s spiritual transformation, resulting in a restored covenant relationship. While many commentators have assumed that this is indeed the case, the book’s pessimistic outlook on Israel’s moral identity calls into question the idea that more punishment will effectively purge, deter, or educate the people in order to produce faithful behaviour. The idea that divine punishment is redemptive is foreign to the book of Ezekiel. Likewise, the idea that “turning” (V. 6) will result in a transformed people and a restored covenant relationship also seems to be problematised in the book.In this essay I have argued that Ez 14,11 is an instance of Fortschreibung. It represents the work of a scribe who has read 14,1–10, remembers 37,23 and sees it as the solution to the problems of idolatry and bad prophets, and then writes V. 11 in light of this. The word למען (“in order that”) in V. 11 presumes Yhwh’s transformative action described in 37,23. In addition, the statements in V. 11 that Israel would “no longer go astray” and “no longer defile themselves” treat the individuals (the persuadable prophets and idolatrous inquirers) from V. 1–9 as representative of the larger problems of bad prophecy and idolatry from which Israel would be cleansed.By demonstrating that V. 11 has been composed in light of other passages in the book that emphasize divine transformation in the process of spiritual restoration, I have made a contribution to our understanding of how the book of Ezekiel wrestles with the problem of how to achieve a purified and faithful community. This sheds light on our understanding of ancient Israelite conceptions of moral identity and its transformation.51 But my findings in this essay also have implications for our understanding of ancient Jewish reading habits and editorial practices. The kind of reflective and additive literary activity that I have proposed here is in no way unusual, but occurs on a variety of levels in the process of composition and transmission of the book of Ezekiel.52 For a similar example, we might consider Ez 28,25–26. This passage is widely recognized as an interpolation, an oracle of salvation for Israel that has been inserted into the oracles against the nations (Ez 25–32).53 It is built entirely from locutions taken from elsewhere in Ezekiel and the prophetic corpus. Similarly, a number of plusses in proto-MT Ezekiel are interpolations that are constructed from vocabulary found elsewhere in the book.54 These examples reflect what can be seen in the transmission of many other ancient Jewish texts: namely, that scribes often drew on material from the larger context in order to construct the supplementary material that they inserted into the text.55 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biblische Zeitschrift Brill

Ezekiel 14,10–11: ‘The Beatings Will Continue until Morals Improve’?

Biblische Zeitschrift , Volume 67 (1): 16 – Jan 23, 2023

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Brill
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Copyright © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
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0006-2014
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2589-0468
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10.30965/25890468-06701006
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Abstract

1Introduction“God kills in order to save.”1 This is Walther Zimmerli’s conclusion to his analysis of Ez 14,1–11. Other commentators offer similar assessments.2 These are attempts to account for how V. 11 relates to the preceding verses, and in particular V. 10:ונשׂאו עונם כעון הדרשׁ כעון הנביא יהיה׃ למען לא־יתעו עוד בית־ישׂראל מאחרי ולא־יטמאו עוד בכל־פשׁעיהם והיו לי לעם ואני אהיה להם לאלהים נאם אדני יהוה׃14,10 “And they will bear their punishment – like the punishment of the inquirer, so will be the punishment of the prophet – 11 in order that the house of Israel will no longer go astray from me and will no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions. And they will be my people, and I will be their God” – utterance of Lord Yhwh.But do these interpretations of Ez 14,10–11 adequately represent the book’s outlook regarding the people’s moral identity and its transformation? Is it true that the spiritual restoration envisioned in the book will be brought about by harsher punishments – “the beatings will continue until morals improve”? Will killing off a few idolatrous inquirers and persuadable prophets result in a restored covenant relationship? In this essay I will assess arguments about the relation of V. 11 to the preceding verses, and will argue that V. 11 has been composed in light of other passages in the book that emphasize divine transformation in the process of spiritual restoration.2The Contents and Organization of Ezekiel 14,1–11Ezekiel 14,1–8 concern Yhwh’s response to the one who comes to consult a prophet while also contemplating גלולים. After a narrative introduction in V. 1 that establishes the setting and characters, V. 2 depicts a response that begins with a Prophetic Word Formula. The material falls into three sections: V. 1–3, a statement of Yhwh’s response to idolatrous inquirers who have come to Ezekiel; V. 4–5, a legal scenario describing idolatrous inquirers who come to a prophet and Yhwh’s negative response; V. 6–8, a call to turn plus a more elaborate description of idolatrous inquirers and Yhwh’s negative response, concluding with a Recognition Formula. Each of these sections are linked by repeated vocabulary. The descriptions of Yhwh’s negative response are increasingly forceful, beginning with an ironic “answer” in V. 4.6 and ending with the “cutting off” of the inquirer in V. 8. The use of legal terminology familiar to us from Lev 17,3 the combination of this legal terminology with prophetic terminology,4 and the use of patterned repetition with variation5 suggest that this material is not a transcript of prophetic speech, but a well-crafted literary composition. Verses 1–8 form a cohesive and coherent unit, and could stand on their own; strictly speaking, V. 9–11 are not essential to their argument.Nevertheless, V. 1–8 do raise issues that are not fully addressed if these verses stand alone.6 Given that they depict the scenario of the one who inquires of Yhwh by a prophet while contemplating other deities, this raises the question: what kind of prophet would allow himself to be consulted by such a person? The answer is: only an easily swayed (V. 9, יפתה) prophet, one who tells people what they wish to hear (cf. chap. 13).7 Verse 9 therefore grows quite naturally out of the problem presented in V. 1–8,8 and the articular “the prophet” (V. 9a, הנביא) presumes the scenario presented earlier. Verse 9 also attributes the prophet’s suggestibility to Yhwh himself, as a means of entrapment to bring about the prophet’s destruction. Verse 10 represents an explicit attempt to link V. 1–8 and V. 9 together even more closely, emphasizing the parity of the judgment on the inquirer of V. 1–8 and the prophet of V. 9. Zimmerli argued that the use of legal language throughout V. 1–9 leads the reader to expect a concluding statement precisely of the kind we see in V. 10.9 He (and others) concluded that V. 1–11 are a compositional unity,10 though some have taken V. 9–11 as a later addition.11 But it is the relationship of V. 11 to the preceding material that for me raises interesting questions about conceptual unity. The first word in V. 11 (למען, “in order that”) appears to subordinate the rest of the verse to the preceding material – but is this in fact the case?3The Relationship between V. 10 and V. 11A glance at the history of interpretation will reveal that there is a remarkably wide range of perspectives on the relationship between V. 10 and 11. They can be broadly categorized into three positions: first, the position that V. 11 expresses the result of V. 10; second, the position that only V. 11a expresses the result of V. 10; and third, the position that V. 11 does not express the result of V. 10.3.1Position One: V. 11ab Is Subordinate to, and Expresses the Result of, V. 10Those who see V. 11 as subordinate to V. 10 vary considerably as to how punishment is believed to result in spiritual restoration. First, there are those who claim that Yhwh’s judgment is somehow redemptive in nature. In the introduction above, I noted Zimmerli’s claim that “God kills in order to save.” Regarding V. 10–11, he furthermore states: “Here, as the final goal of Yahweh’s judgment, the restoration of the covenant is wholeheartedly affirmed.”12 Precisely how judgment results in a restored covenant is not entirely clear; Zimmerli repeatedly refers to this as a “mystery.”13 Similarly, according to Daniel Block, V. 11 “serves not only to declare Yahweh’s purpose in his judgment, but also to offer a splendid ray of hope for the future. Although Yahweh must deal harshly with his people, his objectives are redemptive.”14 Again, it remains unclear how judgment is supposedly “redemptive.”15Second, there are those who argue that Yhwh’s judgment is purgative in nature: once the idolatrous inquirers and persuadable prophets are exterminated from the people, the covenant relationship is restored. Darr and Kraetzschmar are representative of this position,16 and Körting (who argues that the guilt of the inquirer and the prophet leads to the defilement of the community) seems to be as well.17Third, there are those who argue that the judgment of V. 10 functions as a deterrent to Israel, terrifying them into turning from idolatry and/or preventing them from idolatry in the first place. This allows Yhwh’s goal of a covenant relationship to exist unhindered. Hölscher, Allen, Pohlmann and others are representative of this position.18Fourth, there are those who argue that the judgment of V. 10 has a pedagogical function. According to Greenberg, “God’s immediate punitive purpose has an educative final aim – to bring the errants back to him.”19 A rather different understanding of pedagogy is espoused by Odell. According to her, it is not punishment per se that leads to restoration, but Yhwh’s sovereign manipulation of prophets and questioners (V. 9) that leads the people to recognize his sovereignty.20Fifth, according to Ewald, the punishment of V. 10 has a diagnostic function: Yhwh makes an example of those he punishes in order to “take hold of the rest by the heart” and determine whether they can be rehabilitated.21It seems to me that there are a number of difficulties in taking the restoration in V. 11 as dependent on the punishment in V. 10. First, the idea that the punishment in V. 10 has a redemptive function is problematized by the fact that divine judgment is never depicted as redemptive in the book of Ezekiel. It may sometimes bring about recognition of Yhwh; but such recognition is also attributed to e.g. Ammonites and Philistines (25,7.17), and is clearly not redemptive in these instances.22 At the individual level, divine judgment simply results in death (e.g., 9,5–6; 11,7–11.13; 17,15–16; 18,20; 23,46–47) or exclusion (e.g., 13,9). At a larger level, divine judgment actually creates problems: it stands in tension with Yhwh’s oath to bring Israel out of Egypt into the land (20,6 vs. 20,8.13.15.23.32),23 and leads to the profanation of Yhwh’s name in exile (36,17–20). Conversely, when spiritual transformation is described in Ezekiel, it is due to Yhwh’s gift of a unified heart and new spirit (11,19–20; 36,26–27) or to Yhwh’s cleansing and deliverance from sin (16,63; 36,25.29; 37,23).24 And when the covenant formula is mentioned elsewhere (11,19–20; 36,25–28; 37,23.27), it is always linked with transformative action rather than judgment.Second, the idea that divine punishment successfully functions as a purgative presumes an optimistic outlook on the people in which only a few “bad apples” are to blame – here, the idolatrous inquirers and persuadable prophets.25 But as Zimmerli pointed out, such an outlook is excluded here in 14,1–11 by the accusation in V. 5 that the entire “House of Israel” is estranged from Yhwh and stands under threat of divine punishment.26 Moreover, such an optimistic outlook is excluded elsewhere by passages such as Ez 2,3–5; 3,7; 12,1–2; 20,30–31, which depict the prophet’s contemporaries as chronically rebellious.Third, the idea that divine punishment is a deterrent that can successfully regulate Israelite behaviour27 seems implausible as an outlook in the book of Ezekiel. Punishments that one would imagine to be successful deterrents are not: in Ez 18,2, the condition of exile is being all-too-easily explained away in the proverb about sour grapes. And in Ez 23,5–11, Jerusalem sees but is not deterred by the destruction of Samaria; instead, it attempts to out-do its sister-city in unfaithful behaviour. But more importantly, the purpose of punishment is never described as a deterrent in Ezekiel, in contrast to the depictions of punishment in e.g. Num 26,10; Dtn 19,(16–)20; Am 4,6–11.Fourth, Greenberg’s thesis that divine punishment is educational is problematized by the fact that the “errants” he identifies as being educated are in fact those who are being killed by Yhwh (V. 8, “I will set my face against that man … I will cut him off”;28 V. 9, “I will stretch out my hand against him and destroy him”). And with respect to Odell’s thesis: why would we expect the people to learn from and be transformed by Yhwh’s manipulation of prophets if they have not learned from his other even more catastrophic actions?Fifth, Ewald’s thesis that the punishment of V. 10 has a diagnostic function anachronistically attributes a positive sense to the word “capture” (תפשׂ) in V. 5. But the images associated with this word in ancient Israelite and Second Temple-period texts are thoroughly negative.29 The verb תפשׂ is regularly used for the capture of cities in battle (Dtn 20,19; Jos 8,8; 2 Kön 14,7; 16,9; 18,13), for the capture of individuals in battle (Jos 8,23; 1 Sam 15,8; 23,26; 2 Kön 14,13; Ez 12,13; 19,8–9), and even for sexual assault (Dtn 22,28). Our earliest extant interpretations of Ez 14,5 are found in LXX and 1QHa 12.15–21, which understood תפשׂ as punitive and not restorative.30 It is only in the Targum that we find the first attempt to soften the harshness of this image.31To sum up: the claims that the punishment in V. 10 has a purgative, deterrent, pedagogical or diagnostic function do not take into account the book’s pessimistic outlook on the people’s moral identity. As I will demonstrate below, V. 11 has a close literary connection with passages that emphasize divine transformation in the process of spiritual restoration.3.2Position Two: Only V. 11a Is Related to V. 10The second position – that only V. 11a is dependent on V. 10 – is represented by Georg Fohrer, who takes V. 9–11aα as a later addition to V. 1–8. He sees the punishment described in V. 10 as a deterrent intended to prevent the apostasy described in V. 11aα (he understands V. 11aβ is a “supplementary gloss”). Fohrer takes the description of the restored covenant in V. 11b as a further addition, quoting 11,20.32Fohrer’s identification of V. 11b as a gloss suggests that he feels it problematic to link the covenant formula to Yhwh’s punitive action. However, I am not convinced that he fully succeeds in either explaining the problem or in offering a full solution. First, Fohrer’s view that the punishment in V. 10 is a deterrent is subject to the same criticism that I raised earlier. Second, if V. 11b is a “gloss” that quotes 11,20, what is the redactor’s motive for adding it here? This remains unexplained. But as I will argue below, I believe Fohrer was on the right track with his comparison of 14,11 to 11,20.3.3Position Three: V. 11 Does Not Express the Result of V. 10The third position – those who see V. 11 as unrelated to the punishment in V. 10 – is represented by Rudolf Mosis, John Wevers, and Keith Carley, and Paul Joyce. According to Mosis, V. 11 cannot be logically related to the statement of V. 10 that the punishment of the inquirer and the punishment of the prophet will be the same. How can the equality of punishment (V. 10b) guarantee the absence of straying and rebellion (V. 11)?33 Therefore, the statement “in order that the house of Israel may no longer go astray …” (V. 11) is for Mosis directly subordinate to the command in V. 6 to speak “to the house of Israel,” and indirectly envisions the “goal and result” of its urging to “turn from your idols.”34I would certainly agree with Mosis that the future faithfulness of Israel and restored covenant relationship envisioned in V. 11 have nothing to do with the statement in V. 10b about the equality of punishment. But as far as I know, no one has suggested that it does. Those who take V. 11 as dependent on V. 10 understand it to be dependent on the first clause (stating that inquirers and prophets will be punished) rather than on the second clause (stating that their punishments would be equivalent) – and it is not difficult to find examples of similar syntactic constructions.35John Wevers and Keith Carley come to a result similar to Mosis, but by means of an argument about the text’s formation.36 They reconstruct V. 4–5.8 as an original oral prophecy and V. 9–10 as an Ezekielian extension to the original prophecy.37 They take V. 6.7.11 as later additions.38 In their reconstruction, the effect of adding V. 6.11 is to turn an original oracle of judgment into something hopeful: they understand V. 6 as interpreting V. 5 in a positive manner, and V. 11 as envisioning the result of the “turning” spoken of in V. 6. Thus Wevers and Carley understand the word למען in V. 11 not as immediately subordinate to V. 10, but as connected in a rather broad sense to an idea associated with V. 6.It seems to me, first, that Wevers and Carley are overly optimistic about our ability to reconstruct prophetic speech from behind what is generally acknowledged to be an exceedingly literary text.39 Second, they appear to be working with a form-critical assumption that a proclamation of judgment and an appeal to turn are incompatible,40 and on this basis isolate both V. 6 and 11 as only loosely and secondarily connected to the surrounding material. Third, their claim that V. 6 “specifies the purpose of V. 5”41 attributes a positive meaning to the word “capture” (תפשׂ) that is, as I argued above, anachronistic. Finally, the claims of Mosis, Wevers, and Carley that the future faithfulness of Israel (V. 11) is envisioned as the “goal and result” of Yhwh’s command to speak about turning (V. 6) is one that seems foreign to the rest of the book, which does not depict “turning” as a realistic response to the prophet’s message. In fact, the book takes a consistently negative position on the people’s response to the prophet.42 Furthermore, a number of scholars have convincingly argued that the book of Ezekiel reflects a pessimistic stance on human moral agency43 and the possibility of repentance.44The last representative of the position that V. 11 is not dependent on V. 10 is Paul Joyce, who (as far as I can tell) is the only commentator to explicitly remark on the tension between the judgment in V. 9–10 and the restored relationship described in V. 11. He ascribes this tension to the prophet himself: “YHWH cannot, it seems, allow the ‘cutting off’ of Israel to be the last word…. While this verse could be seen as a more optimistic addition, it is better understood as illustrating the tensions within Ezekiel’s perception of the divine purposes.”45 However, the function of the word למען remains unclear. Still, it seems that Joyce feels there is a gap in the logic of the passage – and this highlights the issue I am attempting to explain.4Ezekiel 14,11 as FortschreibungHow then is V. 11 related to the preceding material? First, I would agree with Wevers, Carley, and Joyce that the למען of V. 11 is not directly dependent on V. 10 (though I would disagree that it goes back to V. 6).Second, it seems clear that a faithful house of Israel and a restored covenant relationship would by definition be free from the idolatry and false prophecy described in V. 1–10. But while V. 11 envisions Yhwh’s ultimate goal, the punishment in V. 10 should not be understood as a description of the means to achieve this goal. Verse 11 envisions the state of affairs after the problems described in V. 1–10 are solved, but it does not tell us how the problems are solved.Third, building on a number of commentators who have noted the similarity of 14,11 to 37,23,46 I want to go further and propose that V. 11 was actually composed in light of 37,23.47 Note the identical vocabulary in the two passages:למען לא־יתעו עוד בית־ישׂראל מאחרי ולא־יטמאו עוד בכל־פשׁעיהם והיו לי לעם ואני אהיה להם לאלהים נאם אדני יהוה׃14,11 in order that the house of Israel will no longer go astray from me and will no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions. And they will be my people, and I will be their God – utterance of Lord Yhwh.ולא יטמאו עוד בגלוליהם ובשׁקוציהם ובכל פשׁעיהם והושׁעתי אתם מכל מושׁבתיהם אשׁר חטאו בהם וטהרתי אותם והיו־לי לעם ואני אהיה להם לאלהים׃37,23 And they will no longer defile themselves with their idols and with their detestable things and with all their transgressions.48 And I will save them from all their apostasies49 in which they have sinned, and I will purify them. And they will be my people, and I will be their God.It seems to me that Ez 14,11 is an instance of Fortschreibung. I think we must envision a scribe who reads 14,1–10, remembers 37,23 and sees it as the solution to the problems in 14,1–10, and then writes V. 11 in light of this. The statement in 37,23 supplies the missing information needed to explain how Israel’s transformation is brought about. It is only after Yhwh saves and purifies his people from their transgressions that the covenant relationship will be restored. The word “in order that” in V. 11 presumes Yhwh’s transformative action in 37,23, and perhaps not coincidentally mirrors the syntax and wording of 11,20 and its relationship to 11,19:ונתתי להם לב אחד ורוח חדשׁה אתן בקרבכם והסרתי לב האבן מבשׂרם ונתתי להם לב בשׂר׃ למען בחקתי ילכו ואת־משׁפטי ישׁמרו ועשׂו אתם והיו־לי לעם ואני אהיה להם לאלהים׃11,19–20 And I will give them a single heart, and I will put a new spirit within them.50 And I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, in order that they will walk in my statutes, and will keep my ordinances and do them. And they will be my people, and I will be their God.Furthermore, the first two clauses of 14,11 take up the two individuals described in V. 1–8.9 and transform them by metonymy into larger behavioural problems to be solved. The first clause in V. 11 employs the verb תעה, used in Jes 9,14–15; Jer 23,13.32; Mi 3,5 to accuse prophets of misleading Israel. Thus Ez 14,11aα “no longer go astray” (לא־יתעו עוד) envisions freedom from bad prophetic leadership of the kind described in V. 9. The second clause in Ez 14,11 uses the verb טמא, which is frequently used to describe the effects of idolatry (so 37,23; see also 20,7.18.31; 22,3.4; 23,7.30). So V. 11aβ “no longer defile themselves” envisions freedom from the idolatry that is described in V. 1–8.5Conclusion and Significance of FindingsThe syntax of Ez 14,11 initially seems to suggest that the punishment in V. 10 will be the cause of Israel’s spiritual transformation, resulting in a restored covenant relationship. While many commentators have assumed that this is indeed the case, the book’s pessimistic outlook on Israel’s moral identity calls into question the idea that more punishment will effectively purge, deter, or educate the people in order to produce faithful behaviour. The idea that divine punishment is redemptive is foreign to the book of Ezekiel. Likewise, the idea that “turning” (V. 6) will result in a transformed people and a restored covenant relationship also seems to be problematised in the book.In this essay I have argued that Ez 14,11 is an instance of Fortschreibung. It represents the work of a scribe who has read 14,1–10, remembers 37,23 and sees it as the solution to the problems of idolatry and bad prophets, and then writes V. 11 in light of this. The word למען (“in order that”) in V. 11 presumes Yhwh’s transformative action described in 37,23. In addition, the statements in V. 11 that Israel would “no longer go astray” and “no longer defile themselves” treat the individuals (the persuadable prophets and idolatrous inquirers) from V. 1–9 as representative of the larger problems of bad prophecy and idolatry from which Israel would be cleansed.By demonstrating that V. 11 has been composed in light of other passages in the book that emphasize divine transformation in the process of spiritual restoration, I have made a contribution to our understanding of how the book of Ezekiel wrestles with the problem of how to achieve a purified and faithful community. This sheds light on our understanding of ancient Israelite conceptions of moral identity and its transformation.51 But my findings in this essay also have implications for our understanding of ancient Jewish reading habits and editorial practices. The kind of reflective and additive literary activity that I have proposed here is in no way unusual, but occurs on a variety of levels in the process of composition and transmission of the book of Ezekiel.52 For a similar example, we might consider Ez 28,25–26. This passage is widely recognized as an interpolation, an oracle of salvation for Israel that has been inserted into the oracles against the nations (Ez 25–32).53 It is built entirely from locutions taken from elsewhere in Ezekiel and the prophetic corpus. Similarly, a number of plusses in proto-MT Ezekiel are interpolations that are constructed from vocabulary found elsewhere in the book.54 These examples reflect what can be seen in the transmission of many other ancient Jewish texts: namely, that scribes often drew on material from the larger context in order to construct the supplementary material that they inserted into the text.55

Journal

Biblische ZeitschriftBrill

Published: Jan 23, 2023

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