The Glory of the LORD in the prophecies of Ezekiel

Glory (kābôd) is one of the characteristics of YHWH in the Old Testament. Usually the Hebrew word kābôd is used here. Especially in Ezekiel, the least well know of the great prophets, the glory or kābôd of YHWH has an important place. In March 2010 I defended a PhD dissertation on the subject of the glory of YHWH in the Old Testament at the University of Amsterdam. My supervisor was prof. dr. Athalya Brenner. By a strange coincidence I came in contact with her. I myself a confessing Reformed evangelical and she a Jewish and feminist scholar could work together academically very fruitfully.

In the monograph published in 2015 by Brill the appendix on the translation of kābôd in the LXX and frequency and the occurrences of doxa in the LXX (the usual translation of kābôd) and that on the frequency and the occurrences of kābôd and the Aramaic word jeqār in the Old Testament, are not included, mainly for reasons of space. At the other side several details, some of them quite important, not found in the Ph. dissertation, but based on my further research of the subject since 2010, could be added.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century several studies on the glory of YHWH have been written. From these studies we can learn that the kābôd of YHWH cannot only be seen in creation, history and eschatology, but that it can also have the notion of hypostasis. The specific approach of my study is not only to analyse kābôd itself but also its most important synonyms as well as its main equivalent in Aramaic, jeqār.

Biblical texts are approached from a canonical perspective, and the synchronic approach prevails over the diachronic. The text is approached as a whole and irregularities are explained as much as possible in the light of differences in content and context within the text itself. In The Kābôd of YHWH in the Old Testament With Particular Reference to the book of Ezekiel an answer is given to the question why Ben Siras characterizes Ezekiel as the prophet who saw God’s glory

After an introduction, an analysis of the semantic value of kābôd is made in the second chapter The third chapter researches in detail the frequency and distribution of kābôd, the verb k-b-d and the main synonyms of kābôd. For future research helpful appendices are given. One of the important conclusions is that and even more so the nif‘al of k-b-d are used for the most part in a strictly religious context. In the Old Testament kābôd is never ascribed to idols. Among the gods only YHWH is worthy of kābôd.

In the fourth chapter the occurrences of kābôd in the Old Testament outside the book of Ezekiel are considered in detail. The fifth chapter on the book of Ezekiel shows as that in Ezekiel with just one exception (Ezek. 31:18) is kābôd used exclusively for YHWH. And in these occurrences, again with just one exception (Ezek. 39:20), kābôd has the meaning of hypostasis. We find these occurrences of the kābôd of YHWH as a hypostasis in three of the four visions of Ezekiel, namely Ezek. 1-3, 8-11 and 40-48.

The whole structure of the book of Ezekiel is governed by the kābôd of YHWH. In Ezek. 1-3 we have the calling-vision of the prophet in which the kābôd oof YHWH appears to him. In Ezek. 8-11 the departure of the kābôd oof YHWH from the Temple is described. The final vision is the climax of the prophecies of Ezekiel. In this vision the prophet sees how the kābôd of YHWH returns to a complete new Temple separated from the city.

In Ezekiel none the synonyms of kābôd is used for YHWH. They are used to describe the riches and position of Jerusalem and its old Temple and Tyrus. It is remarkable that none of the synonyms is used in the description of the new Temple. Only the measures of the Temple complex are given. The really important thing is that the kābôd of YHWH indwells it.

The sixth chapter is devoted to the relationship between the book of Ezekiel and the development of apocalypticism. Ezekiel stands on the border between prophecy and apocalypticism. Within the Old Testament his influence can be discerned in Zechariah and Daniel. Already in biblical proto-apocalypticism glory is the characteristic of the renewed Jerusalem, its Temple, and the land of Israel. In post-biblical apocalypticism this is the hallmark of the future and heavenly world.

Ben Sira’s characterization of Ezekiel as the prophet who saw God’s glory was already mentioned, and to this notion shall now return. It is not based on the number of the occurrences of kābôd. In Isaiah both absolute and in percentage this is higher than in Ezekiel. The peculiarity of Ezekiel is that is the kābôd used almost exclusively as a hypostasis of YHWH and that none of the synonyms of kābôd is used for YHWH himself.

Especially in Ezekiel but also outside Ezekiel no verb is used so often in connection with kābôd as the verb ‘see’. Ezekiel’s description of the kābôd of YHWH is more elaborate than any other Old Testament writers, and it highlights the dual and paradoxical nature of the divine kābôd as both defying verbal description and being potentially visible. This research highlights especially the importance of the visible aspect. When Ben Sira says that Ezekiel saw the ‘appearance/form’ of the glory that was shown to him above the chariot of the cherubs, the words ‘saw’ and ‘appearance/form’ must be equally emphasized and taken seriously.

dr. Pieter de Vries, De heerlijkheid van JHWH in het Oude Testament en in het bijzonder in het boek Ezechiël (Heerenveen: Groen, 2010), hardcover xxviii + 578pp. (ISBN 978-90-5829-973-4). It is possible to order a copy by mailing to my gmail. The price is 27 ,–(postage included)

dr. Pieter de Vries, The Kābôd of YHWH in the Old Testament With Particular Reference to the book of Ezekiel  (Leiden/ Boston: Brill, 2015), hardcover xiv + 483 pp., €190,– (ISBN 978-90-04-30322-5)

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