The Message of Ezekiel. The Bible Speaks Today

By Christopher J. H. Wright
Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity (2001). 368 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
17.2 (Fall 2006) : 255-256

The author of this volume is the International Ministry Director of the Langham Partnership and has taught OT at All Nations Christian College in Ware, England. His many published writings include The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (IVP, 2006), Knowing the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament (IVP, 2006), Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (IVP, 2004), Deuteronomy (NIBC, Hendrickson, 1996), and Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (IVP, 1995).

As a series, The Bible Speaks Today purposes to present readable and accurate expositions of the biblical text in order to relate it to contemporary life. Therefore, Wright “felt free to organize the material with some degree of selection and with a division of the book into groups of related chapters” (12). Therefore, following a fairly complete introduction (17-42), the first chapter of the volume deals with Ezekiel’s vision in 1:1–3:15 (43-63), the second chapter expounds Ezekiel’s first year in ministry as presented in 3:16–5:17 (64-93), and an appendix provides brief notes on Ezekiel 6, 7, and 12 (94-96). The commentary’s third chapter treats the exit of Yahweh’s glory in 8:1–11:25 (97-126) and the fourth chapter is entitled “History with attitude (16:1-63; 23:1-49; 20:1-49)” (127-68), followed by an appendix of notes on Ezekiel 15, 17, and 19 (169-71). Chapter five asks “Who then can be saved? (14:12-23; 18:1-32; 33:10-20)” (172-210). The remaining chapters include “The turning point (24:1-27; 33:1-33)” (211-28), “‘Then the nations will know that I am the LORD’ (25:1–32:32)” (229-72), “The gospel according to Ezekiel (34:1–37:28)” (273-314), and “The glory of God revealed to the world and restored to his people (38:1–48:35)” (315-68).

This volume has much to commend. In his introduction, Wright argues for the unity of the Book of Ezekiel (40). Among the theological focuses that he identifies is the evangelistic nature of Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry (32-35, 42). Discussing the idolatrous condition of Israel as depicted in 8:5-18, he connects Lev 26:40-42 with their need for confession and repentance (104). In fact, he repeatedly emphasizes the significance of Leviticus 26 to Ezekiel (151, 281, 298). Throughout his exposition of Ezekiel 18, he upholds the biblical doctrine of the natural consequences of sin (181-90).

Although the author claims to perceive an eschatological fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecies (35), he does not interpret such prophecies literally (152 n. 77). Instead, fulfillment is tied to the ministry of Jesus Christ, the establishment of the NT church, and the mission of the church to the Gentiles. Wright’s anti-literalist stance reaches a crescendo in his treatment of Gog and Magog (324-25). In the same vein, he claims that Ezekiel’s description of the temple in chapters 40–48 is purely metaphorical (335). He assigns Ezekiel’s temple vision to messianic fulfillment in Christ (341).

Discussing Ezekiel’s vision of the divine chariot (Ezekiel 1), Wright claims that the prophet “hijacks the Babylonian juggernaut and turns it into a vehicle for conveying the sovereign glory of Yahweh” and that the cherubim were familiar to Mesopotamian inhabitants (28-29). He fails to observe that Moses had written about such guardian cherubs existing at the very beginning of the history of fallen mankind (Gen 3:24). His identification of Daniel in Ezek 14:14 with the Dan’el of Ugaritic texts, rather than with the Daniel of Scripture (176), is debatable. Elsewhere, he denies any reference to Satan in 28:11-19, deflecting literal interpretation by an appeal to poetic language (244-46).

Wright’s prose, in the highest traditions of the British, is pleasant to read for its cadence, color, and clarity. Expositors looking for commentaries that will improve their understanding and their presentation of the text need to read this volume. Sometimes exegetical detail is absent, but, like Wright (12), the reader can refer to Daniel Block’s two-volume commentary in NICOT (Eerdmans, 1997) for such detail.