Written by Steven Tuell Reviewed By Matthieu Richelle

The commentary on Ezekiel in the NIBC series has been entrusted to Steven Tuell, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, partly because his doctoral work is on this biblical book (The Law of the Temple in Ezekiel 40–48 [HSM 49; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992]). Naturally, this study shares the common features of the series and consequently the qualities and limitations it implies:

  1. In each chapter, the main section addresses general questions of interpretation about a passage, whereas technical details are treated at the end as additional notes. The advantages of this presentation are obvious: the book becomes accessible to people who are not acquainted with exegetical methods (they simply have to drop the final notes); readers expecting a discussion of questions pertaining to philology or textual criticism will often find them all the same; for both kinds of people, the main text flows naturally.
  2. The book widely integrates words and phrases of the text in the comments in bold characters so that it is easy to follow the progression without constantly looking aside to the biblical text. At the same time, the risk of paraphrasing Ezekiel is always present, and in practice it is frequently what happens.
  3. The scope of the study is limited, and many aspects of the text are left aside, partly due to the editorial guidelines of NIBC series. That being the case, the degree of detail that Tuell’s work provides, especially in the “additional notes,” is frankly superior to what we encounter in many other titles of the NIBC series. Moreover, he has supplied many bibliographical references in order to palliate his own editorial constraints by giving advice for those who want to go into more detail. However, Tuell rarely mentions interpretations other than his own.
  4. The underlying hermeneutics can be labeled as “believing criticism,” that is, a willingness to integrate some positions stemming from critical scholarship into an approach that recognizes the authority of the Bible. In the present case, the main implications concern the redactional history of the book. Tuell adopts a two-stage model: most of the book originates from the prophet himself, but some insertions were made by “priestly editors” during the Persian period, mostly in Ezek 40–48. Readers should be forewarned that Tuell advocates here the personal position he developed in his doctoral dissertation:

(a) He believes that 43:7b–27; 44:3–46:24; and 47:13–48:29 are insertions made during the restoration in order to add a “Law of the Temple” to the temple vision. Tuell repeats only a part of his arguments in the present commentary; for example he insists on the idea that Ezek 44 contains a criticism of the Levites that is incompatible with the authentic Ezekelian texts, while the absolute restriction of the priestly duty to Zadokites reflects the situation during the beginning of the Persian period.

(b) Tuell considers that this “Law of the Temple” and the Pentateuchal Torah (more precisely, the so-called “P” writings) are two parallel, independent, and virtually contemporaneous works, the first being placed under the authority of Ezekiel by priests in the restored Jerusalem, while the second was placed under the authority of Moses by exiled authors.

On these two points, Tuell’s hypothesis will doubtless convince neither conservative nor all critical scholars: (a) This is not the place to answer all of Tuell’s arguments. For a short discussion, see the review of Tuell’s The Law of the Temple by D. Block (JBL 113 [1994]: 131–33). For an interpretation of Ezek 44:10–14 without a polemic against the Levites, see D. Block, The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25–48 [NICOT; Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1998], pp. 626–37). (b) Scholars have sustained at least three positions regarding the link between the “Law of the Temple” and, in particular, the “Holiness Code” (Lev 17–26): dependence in either way, mutual influence, or even independence. Tuell’s thesis belongs to the last stream, but it is a relatively rare opinion. For example, in the most recent detailed study on this topic (From Law to Prophecy: Ezekiel’s Use of the Holiness Code [Library of Hebrew Bible; OTS 507; New York: T&T Clark, 2009]), Michael A. Lyons assigns the “Law of the Temple” to Ezekiel himself and shows how he uses “H” in making subtle transformations in order to adapt it to the audience of Exiles. Moreover, Tuell’s argument depends on an exilic date for the “Holiness Code,” but even in critical scholarship there are specialists who consider it as pre-exilic. Examples include J. Milgrom (Leviticus 17–22 [AB 3A; New York: Doubleday, 2000]) and Jan Joosten (People and Land in the Holiness Code: An Exegetical Study of the Ideational Framework of the Law in Leviticus 17–26 [VTSup 67; Leiden: Brill, 1996]).

In sum, this book can be helpful to students or pastors who are looking for a basic commentary on Ezekiel, more detailed than other titles of the same series but with the same editorial limitations. However, they should be aware of the existence of other interpretations on several points and of the fragility of the hypothesis influencing the last section, which will no doubt lead them to consult other works in order to reach an accurate view of the issues involved.

Matthieu Richelle

Matthieu Richelle
Faculté Libre de Théologie Evangélique
Vaux-sur-Seine, France

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