The Spaceships of Ezekiel
Are there Flying Saucers in the Bible?


Refs: CCoHS - Ezekiel p. 603


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Keywords: Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, history, Middle East, religion, Ezekiel, Roman Catholicism, prophecy, Christianity, Old Testament, Judaism, Protestantism, biblical prophets, Tanakh, Hebrew  Scriptures





Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture

Ezekiel article page 603 


Babylon in the vicinity of Nippur. He was married but his wife died on the first day of the siege of Jerusalem, Jan. 588. His custom of dating his prophecies and his adoption of the Babylonian calendar are naturally attributed to the milieu in which he lived and prophesied. He received his prophetical vocation in June 593. His last dated prophecy belongs to the year 571. All our knowledge of him is derived from his own writings, and the dates of his birth and death are unknown. He must have witnessed the religious revival of Josias and the subsequent idolatrous reaction and died in exile.


The mission of Jeremias was to the Israelites in Palestine but that of Ezechiel was to the exiles. He had to maintain Yahweh worship among them and prepare them for the restoration. His task was difficult for they were a rebellious people inclined to idolatry and, in their isolation from temple and cult, accessible to the seductions of Babylonian ritual and pagan environment. Presumption and despair were the chief obstacles to their conversion. They believed that their exile would be speedily terminated and that Yahweh, who had miraculously preserved Jerusalem from the Assyrians, would not allow the Chaldaeans to destroy his city and sanctuary. They believed also that they were being punished unjustly for the sins of their ancestors, and were the innocent victims of national responsibility. Such hearers were little disposed to heed prophetic discourses assuring them of the proximate and certain ruin of the nation and of the need of conversion to obtain a hearing from Yahweh and escape a similar fate. Only when the prophet's authority was established and the exiles' infatuation dissipated by the fall of Jerusalem could his preaching  h  bear fruit. We can understand therefore why he was inhibited in the use of his prophetic gift during a long period and why supernatural manifestations, symbolic actions, parables and popular sayings were particularly necessary to excite interest and secure a minimum of attention from an unprepared and incredulous audience. The many predictions of the fall of Jerusalem and of the destruction and dispersal of the inhabitants of Judah were directed against the presumption of the exiles, the repeated lessons on personal responsibility and divine mercy against their despair. Far from being involved in the ruin of the nation they were to be the nation resuscitated. The many descriptions of the sins of Israel in all its history and in all classes of its population were intended to convince the exiles that her chastisement was just and inevitable. The mass of the Israelites in Palestine were guilty and doomed to destruction. Ezechiel has no mission to preach to them, makes no effort to convert them. His solicitude is for the exiles on whom all his hopes are centred. More fortunate than Jeremias he knows that his labours, at first unfruitful, will be recompensed by a measure of success in the not too distant future.



The view, advanced by Herntrich and Bertholet and defended by Auvray, that Ezechiel's residence in Babylonia before Jerusalem's fall is the invention of a redactor and that his threats of punishment, like those of Isaias and Jeremias, were addressed to the Israelites in Palestine, is based on a misunderstanding of the prophet's mission and character. The three great prophets in their prophecies against the Gentiles distinguish clearly between those against whom oracles are directed and those for whom they are revealed and to whom they are addressed. They did not seek by these oracles to convert the Gentiles but to convince the Israelites that Yahweh would remove the oppressors of his people and thus prepare the way for the Messianic kingdom. Similarly Ezechiel had not like Jeremias a mission to the Israelites in Palestine whose doom he repeatedly announces as proximate and inevitable. His mission was to convert the exiles on whom all hopes of a restoration were based and who had to be disabused of their errors and convinced of God's justice and holiness before they could become the objects of his mercy and the recipients of his favours. That we learn more of the actual conditions of the exiles from Jeremias than from Ezechiel is explained by their different characters. Ezechiel, concentrated completely on his main object, gives little information about himself and his surroundings. He is not discursive and self-revelatory like Jeremias. Finally the new view is not commended by the numerous textual alterations required to transport the prophet from Tel-Abib to Jerusalem during the first part of his prophetic career. It should be antecedently well established to justify so many arbitrary emendations.



Ezechiel has been accused of originating the exag- j gerated cult of the Law which characterizes later Judaism. The accusation is based on the theory of Wellhausen that the ritual laws of the Mosaic code are a development of the code of Ezechiel. Our increased knowledge of the Ancient East has shown, however, that an extensive ritual developed early in all Eastern religions. Without discussing the date when the legislation of the Pentateuch received its final form we can confidently assume that the ritual laws of Leviticus are earlier than those of Ezechiel. The prophet's code is ideal and selective. He ignores important legal institutions of earlier date and adopts those which suit his purpose. His exclusion of Levi from a tribal portion of the land shows that he regards the whole tribe of Levi as dedicated to the service of the sanctuary. It is most unlikely that later Judaism, while ignoring his descriptions of the temple and the holy land, adopted and developed his legal code. Ezechiel is moreover an eloquent exponent of the need of interior religion. He insists on a sincere conversion to Yahweh, on a new heart and a new spirit.


Many commentators have depicted Ezechiel as a  k  victim of hallucinations, as afflicted with the physical maladies of aphasia and catalepsy. These errors are due, partly to a rationalistic interpretation of supernatural manifestations, partly to a misunderstanding of the texts. His frequent visions and symbolical actions were intended to secure the attention of his incredulous hearers and prepare them for the day when the fulfilment of his oft-repeated prophecies would make them acknowledge his authority and follow his guidance. The visions also taught the necessary lesson that the dominion of Yahweh extended beyond the land of his people to all parts of the world. As Ezechiel's tongue was 'attached to his palate' from the beginning of his prophetic ministry to the fall of Jerusalem, he could not suffer from aphasia while prophetically active but from certain restrictions in the use of his prophetic gift. The binding with cords is another figurative indication of the moral obligation of seclusion imposed on him by Yahweh. It was not catalepsy but Yahweh's command which made him lie on his right and on his left side during long periods. He was also ordered to prepare his own food in the sight of the people during these periods which he could not have done if deprived of all power of movement by catalepsy.


Messianism— As a religious teacher Ezechiel is simple  479a  and earnest and usually enforces his lessons by frequent repetitions. Only his Messianic prophecies require some explanation. They present us with a striking example of the lack of perspective which sometimes characterizes prophetic visions of future events. He sees on the same plane two distinct future events, the proximate national restoration and the remote establishment of the Messianic kingdom and combines these visions in his descriptions of a Messianic restoration. That is why his Messianism is so distinctively national and material and why a literal fulfilment of many of his prophecies cannot be expected since the Messianic kingdom was not national but universal, not materially but spiritually peaceful and prosperous. The Messias is a sprout of the dried up trunk of the Davidic tree which becomes a magnificent cedar, a good shepherd contrasted with the many bad shepherds of Israel, above all a new David. His kingdom is depicted as material and national, the