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Crazy Old Ezekiel

One of the biggest ironies involving those who virtually worship the Bible is the fact that they often haven’t read much of it. If they had, how could they fail to notice that Ezekiel, one of the major prophets, was not only a lousy prognosticator, he was an absolute lunatic as well.

Of course, the same might be said for most of the other prophets. Ezekiel is merely the most extreme example. The earliest Hebrew prophets were ecstatics, dervishes in the ancient Middle Eastern mold. They had the same nature and served the same purpose as a tribal shaman. All of these imparted their messages with bizarre histrionics that captured peoples’ attention and suggested a unique connection to the supernatural. In the case of Ezekiel, many scholars have suspected the bizarre behavior was not entirely an act; but when one’s mental imbalance is expressed in religious terms it’s not surprising when the unsophisticated mistake lunacy for a kind of transcendent holiness beyond their understanding.

But let’s take a look at some of the peculiar things Ezekiel did. Judge for yourself whether he was playing with a full deck.

He eats a scroll in Ezekiel 2:9-10 & 3:1-3. He builds a mini city model and a fort, and like a little boy plays army with them (4:1-3). He lies on his left side for 390 days, then on his right side for 40 (4:4-6).

He apparently eats a feces sandwich (4:12-15). He shaves his head and beard when neither was fashionable nor kosher (Leviticus 19:27) and performs a silly ritual with it (Ezekiel 5:1-2). He issues Yahweh’s terrorist rant in 6:3-7, 10:12. He goes utterly berserk in Ch. 23, frothing about “whoredoms,” “bruised breasts/teats/paps” and “nakedness.” To make some sort of unnecessary point, he refuses to mourn when his wife dies (24:15-18).

All of this, in addition to bizarre visions of no predictive value or utility (Ch. 1) and bouts of hysterical aphasia (3:26; 24:27), was, of course, as everything else is, from Yahweh. Ezekiel’s aberrant behavior was only part of the story. He also issued a series of nationalistic rants against all of Israel’s neighbors, calling for horrible things to happen to them. All of these were recorded as prophecies, but none of them have come to pass. Setting aside the ugliness of his intentions, let’s take a look at them.

In Ch. 26 he speaks against the city of Tyre. He says many nations will unite against it (V. 3) and it will be desolate (V. 19), uninhabited (V. 20) and be no more, never to be found again (V. 21). He specifies that Nebuchadnezzar would be the agent of God’s wrath to accomplish this (V. 7). While Nebuchadnezzar did attack Tyre, this is something any amateur pundit could have guessed, so it shouldn’t count as a prophetic fulfillment. Furthermore, Nebby did not scrape it clean like the top of a rock (V. 4 & 14). Not even Alexander the Great’s conquest– which Ezekiel failed to foresee–did that. And despite Ezekiel’s prophecy, Tyre continued to exist in New Testament times (Acts 21:3). And it still exists today under the name Sur.

In Ch. 29 Ezekiel weighs in against Egypt. He says Yahweh will make it “utterly waste and desolate (V. 10); “No foot of man … nor … beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited for forty years” (V.11). “I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations” (V. 12). “At the end of forty years will I regather the Egyptians” (V. 13). Clearly, none of this has happened. And lest any apologist try to claim that it will happen at some future time, Ch. 30, verse 3, says “the day is near” (in Ezekiel’s time). And it is hardly fair to seek retribution against a much later Egypt that is ethnically distinct from the Egypt of Ezekiel’s time and not responsible for ancient Israel’s grievances. Plus in 32:11 he says “The sword of Babylon shall come upon thee.” That cannot occur now, unless one employs the fudge of claiming it refers to modern Iraq. And how can anyone take Ezekiel seriously when he says the valleys will be filled up to the mountaintops with their dead (32:5) and they’ll irrigate the land with blood (32:6)?

Ezekiel made the same kind of gruesome prophecy about Edom (35:8-9) which, far from being utterly desolate, was eventually annexed by Judah in a far less bloody manner. No one seems to wonder how his rant, as well as the one against Egypt, squares with Deuteronomy 23: 7 (q.v.). After his symbolic, hence not real, revival of “dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones” (37:1-13) Ezekiel says the lost tribes of Israel would be regathered (37:21), but at that time they were being absorbed into neighboring societies, losing their identity irrevocably. They’re that much more lost today. Ezekiel even says that Sodom would “return to [her] former estate” (16:55), something no other prophet ever indicates. And it’s doubtful there was ever a real Sodom to begin with.

If there were any consistency and logic in the religious mind, Ezekiel would have been dismissed as a lunatic, denounced as a false prophet, and kept out of the Bible altogether. How aptly he spoke of himself in 13:1-3! His acceptance is a function of the fact that it was Ezekiel, nutty though he was, who reformulated Judaism for a postexilic Israel.

And you know, Isaiah was almost as nutty.