Ezekiel 8-11 certainly is a continuation of the visions of God from chapter 1 in particular (but also a continuation of chapters 2-3) and as you might expect from earlier posts it is also related then to the end of the book. Note some key phrases and where they can be found in Ezekiel: “Visions of God” (Ezekiel 1:1, 8:3, 40:2); “elders of Judah/Israel sitting before me” (Ezekiel 8:1, 14:1, 20:1, 20:3); “glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:28, 3:12, 3:23, 10:4 twice, Ezekiel 10:18, 11:23, 43:4, 5, 44:4), and “Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 3:12, 3:14, 8:3, 11:1, 11:24, 43:5).
In fact, Ezekiel goes out of his way to indicate that what he is seeing in chapters 8-11 is the same as what he saw in chapter 1. It is no accident that Ezekiel 8:1-4 sounds familiar, as does chapter 10, and Ezekiel 11:22-25. Note that this is the beginning and end and center of chapters 8-11. This is a big key to seeing the structure of these chapters that together with chapters 1-3 and 4-7 make up the first major section of the book.
Note especially the similarity of the following quote with the two that follow:
“And above the expanse over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him” (Ezekiel 1:26-27).
“Then I looked and behold a form that had the appearance of a man. Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal” (Ezekiel 8:2).
“Then I looked and behold on the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim there appeared above them something like a sapphire, in appearance like a throne” (Ezekiel 10:1).
Did you see the order that Ezekiel 1:26-27 follows? It was throne-likeness, like-sapphire, gleaming metal, fire/brightness; and more generally: above the expanse over their heads…likeness with a human appearance. And did you see the order Ezekiel 8:2 and 10:1? It was as follows: fire/brightness, gleaming metal, like-sapphire, throne-likeness; and more generally: appearance of a man…on the expanse that was over their heads. Thus the order of Ezekiel 8:2 and 10:1 is the reverse of Ezekiel 1:26-27. Therefore down to even the order of the comparisons describing what Ezekiel is seeing the text wants you to connect the visions of chapter 1 with those in chapters 8-11.
And as the climax of chapter one focused on the four living creatures and their wheels it is no surprise that the center of chapters 8-11 (which is chapter 10) is on “the living creatures that I saw by the Chebar canal” and their wheels. A central concept in this climax is that the glory of YHWH departed from the Temple in judgment.
Greenberg’s commentary on Ezekiel notes that the opening and closing of the book follows a chiastic pattern, which I have modified:
All of these observations suggest that Ezekiel 8-11 may be a chiasm. The actual structure is a little more complex than that though (as we have learned to expect from Ezekiel):
While Greenberg never fully lays out the outline of Ezekiel 8-11, what I have above follows his observations of the pattern I note as B,C and B’,C’ with the Cherub Vehicle in the middle. I have borrowed and modified some of his phraseology and have identified where sections begin and end based on my own reading of the text. Given that chapter 11 is half of this structure we will look at its structure more closely, which is actually where I began with trying to outline this text on my own. Nevertheless, the structure helps explain why there would be a cabal around after chapter 9’s sword. We are not to read this chronologically.
The outline that Iain Duguid gives of chapters 8-11 is much less convincing. Nevertheless, the outline does note some helpful observations. When I was marking up these chapters (before consulting any commentaries to see what it was that they saw) I too noted that Ezekiel 9:8 and 11:13 show Ezekiel interceding to preserve a remnant of the people of Israel. And after the first intercession the glory of God departed from the Temple and after the second intercession God promised His presence would be with the exiles as a temporary sanctuary and that they would one day return to the land.
I used Duguid’s phrases in my outline with regard to A and A’. But 9:8 and 11:13 do not entirely work as points on an outline of the text. You will observe though that they both fall in the parallel sections of the outline I have given earlier, which is helpful to see for outlining the text.
Regarding the first B in the outline note the following pattern:
First, at the entrance of the gateway of the inner court Ezekiel sees the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy. And Ezekiel is told he will see still greater abominations.
Second, Ezekiel is brought to the entrance of the court and he went in and saw the idols of the house of Israel engraved on the wall all around with the 70 elders offering unauthorized incense. And Ezekiel is told he will see still greater abominations.
Third, Ezekiel is brought to the entrance of the north gate of the house of YHWH and sees women weeping for Tammuz. And Ezekiel is told that he will see still greater abominations.
Ezekiel has been moving further and further into the Temple itself and seeing worse and worse abominations. We have seen three – so next comes the punch – it is a 3+1 pattern.
Fourth (3+1), Ezekiel is brought into the inner court of the house of YHWH and at the entrance of the temple between the porch and the altar were 25 men with their backs to the temple and facing east and worshiping the sun.
Thus the Spirit has come in an investigative or judicial role to see that things are really so awful that judgment must come to pass. And the text says, “Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence…?” (see v.17).
Chapter 9, the C point in our outline, shows a man clothed in linen with a writing case at his waist passing through the city and striking down the people sparing only those with a mark on their foreheads. This “man” has put the mark on the foreheads of those who “sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in” the city. The description is meant to remind us of the original Passover event. And the chapter does end with a definite conclusion as the man clothed in linen says, “I have done as you commanded me” (Ezekiel 9:11).
That B and B’ and C and C’ are to be read as parallel panels really does help to explain then why there would be a cabal still around in Jerusalem for B’ after the description of C. But note also as we have seen that C and C’ are tied together by Ezekiel’s intercession for a remnant and that they are tied together because there is a remnant that survives while those whose heart goes after detestable things and their abominations will have their deeds brought upon their own heads (i.e., 9:11 and 11:21).
At the climax of chapters 8-11 is chapter 10, the first verse of which clearly is beginning a new section. Twice the passage uses the language of “Then I looked, and behold,” (cf. 8:2, 10:1, 10:9). The first half (10:1-8) uses all of that language from chapter 1 in its description though it calls the living creatures from chapter 1 “cherubim.” More about that shortly. What happens in these verses is the “man clothed in linen” went in and took some of the burning coals from between the cherubim and scattered them over the city to burn it down.
The second half of chapter 10 then focuses on the cherubim and their wheels. In verse 20 Ezekiel explains that he now understands that what he had vaguely called “living creatures” back in chapter 1 are in fact cherubim. He did not make this identification at first because they were different than what he was used to thinking of as cherubim from the representations in the Temple. He says, “These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal; and I knew that they were cherubim.”
Chapter 11 begins and ends with a inclusio: “The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the east gate of the house of YHWH, which faces east” (11:1a). “The glory of YHWH went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city. And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me [east]…into Chaldea, to the exiles.” (11:23-24a).
The references to Pelatiah the son of Benaiah help show us the two halves of the chapter. Take a look at the handout here with regard to how the chapter is outlined.
But it is a good idea to end by noting Chapter 11 includes the new covenant language: “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (11:19-20). Amen!