EzekielWritten by Ronald E. Clements Reviewed By Mary J. Evans
After the basic introduction to the prophet, his background and his book, this commentary divides the forty-eight chapters of Ezekiel into ten sections varying in length from three to nine chapters. These divisions provide a helpful means of demonstrating the structure of what is acknowledged to be both one of the most fascinating and one of the most complex prophetic books. At the beginning of each section is an overview outlining, and with broad brush strokes explaining, the content and the historical background to those particular chapters. Within the main sections we are presented with the NRSV text in ‘bite-sized’ chunks, normally 20 to 30 verses long. These chunks are then explored in more detail. In the detailed explanations of the text the main emphasis seems to be on the political and historical implications of what is written. The commentator has a real interest in and a keen insight into the reactions of the exiled community, both to the political situation in which they found themselves and to Ezekiel’s reflections on it. However, there is also a genuine attempt to bring out the three central themes of Ezekiel’s prophecy which were clearly outlined in the Introduction—that is ‘God’s holiness, God’s wrath against all human sin … and God’s unimaginable glory and power to shape and guide human destiny’. Within all of this Ezekiel’s complex character is analysed, although in a way which provides the reader more with a psychological case-study than an introduction to a real individual with an on-going relevant message.
The Westminster Bible Companion Series, to which this volume belongs, is aimed at the laity and ‘seeks both to explain the biblical book in its historical context and explore its significance for faithful living today’. In the first of these aims it succeeds admirably. The style is clear and easy to read. There is perhaps a level of complexity and a demand for pre-understanding of questions relating to both literary and historical issues which may make it less easy for the lay person to use. However there is no doubt that first-year theology students would benefit from the overview of the historical and political circumstances surrounding Ezekiel’s life and message which is provided here. In the second aim, Clements is somewhat less successful. There seems to be very little exploration of the ‘So what?’ type of questions which would allow Bible Study groups to work through the implications of the message of Ezekiel for their own lives. In other words, as a basic low-level academic commentary on Ezekiel, this volume is worth investigating. If one were looking to recommend a tool for Bible Study or House Group leaders, it would probably be better to look elsewhere.
Mary J. Evans
London Bible College