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


Refs: CCoHS - Ezekiel p. 606


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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 606 


of Jerusalem and the Exile—The text must be restored to order. Siege of Jerusalem, 1-3, 7. Famine during the siege, 10-11, 16-17, Length of the exile, 4-6, 8, Unclean foods during the exile, 9-12, 15, Annihilation of the citizens, 5:1-4, Explanation of the symbols, 5:5-17. The determination of the periods represented by days during which Ezechiel lies on his left and on his right side is disputed but only one solution is tenable. As the days represent years they cannot refer to the siege of Jerusalem. Neither can they refer to the iniquity of Judah and Israel during the divided monarchy since Judah's iniquity cannot be reduced to forty years, and Ezechiel represents not the commission but the chastisement of sin. As periods of symbolical expiation they can only refer to the exile. Israel's exile, 721-538, lasted 183 years, Judah's, 587-538, 49 years. The 190, and 40 years preserved by LXX are round numbers in close agreement with these figures. The MT reading 390 probably represents an attempt to equate the combined periods, 430 years, with the length of the Egyptian captivity. The use of Israel as a designation of the Northern Kingdom after the fall of Samaria is exceptional, but not without parallel; cf.Is 11:12. As the prophet was ordered to prepare, cook and eat his food in the sight of the exiles we cannot suppose that he was literally bound or paralysed. He was confined to his house by Yahweh's command, and when he lay down he had to lie on his left side during the first and on his right during the second period.


b IV 1-3, 7 Siege of Jerusalem— Ezechiel is ordered to depict on a brick (used in Babylonia for diagrams as well as for writing) Jerusalem in a state of siege. The siege wall, which may have been a circle of forts, the mound built up against the city wall, the camps of the besiegers and their battering rams are all depicted. The iron wall encircling and isolating the besieged is represented by the iron griddle, used for baking bread, erected between Ezechiel and the city. The prophet, representing the Babylonians, besieges the city, menaces it with bared arm and prophesies against it. The diagram predicts a future event like the inscription in Is 8:1.


10-11, 16-17 Famine during the Siege— The famine is symbolized by the rationing. Ezechicl is restricted to a daily ration of 20 shekels of bread, about 8 oz, and a sixth of a him of water, about 2 pints. The drink restriction would be felt most in the hot climate of Babylonia.


4-6, 8 Length of the Exile— As the Oriental faces the east in determining directions the left side indicates the northern, the right the southern kingdom. The expiation is not vicarious but symbolical. 5a. 'For I have appointed the years of their iniquity to be unto thee a (corresponding) number of days'.8. 'siege': 'distress'.


9, 12-15 Unclean Foods during the Exile— The mixture of wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt, was unlawful just as sowing two kinds of corn in one field or using two kinds of cloth for one garment, Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9-11. The fuel for baking was also unclean and revolting, Deut 23:13 ff., but a mitigation of this uncleanness was obtained by prayer. The dried dung of animals is still frequently used. Bread is sometimes baked by making a fire over flat stones, spreading the cake on the heated stones and covering it with the embers. The period mentioned is 190 (MT 390) days to which 40 must be added. Food eaten in exile was unclean because sacrifices and offerings of first-fruits by which it was sanctified were impossible.


V 1-4 Annihilation of the Citizens— The last of the symbols refers to siege and exile combined. The shaving of Judah with a razor expressed the completeness of its devastation, Is 7:20. Here the order given to Ezechiel symbolizes the annihilation of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Some perish within the city by famine and pestilence, others without by the sword; others are deported but shall not escape the sword. A few are spared from the massacre but even of these all shall not survive. That this remnant is ignored when the symbol is explained does not justify the conclusion that 3-4 is a later addition. 1a. 'Take thee a sharp sword, (as) a barber's razor take it to thee'. 2. 'according to': 'after'. 'knife': 'sword'. 4. (After 'with fire'): 'And thou shalt say to the whole house of Israel' (LXX).



5-17 Explanation of the Symbols— The symbols indicate the chastisement of the inhabitants of Jerusalem for their iniquities. Jerusalem was the religious centre of the word. The Jews were God's chosen people united with him by a special covenant. Instead of being an example to the Gentiles they surpassed them in wickedness. Hence their punishment will be without parallel, especially because they defiled Yahweh's sanctuary with idolatrous worship. They shall perish by pestilence, famine, the sword, and attacks of wild beasts. They shall become a byword to the Gentiles, astonished at the severity of their punishment. 6c. They refers to the Jews, not the Gentiles. 7. 'have surpassed': 'have rebelled more than'. The judgements of the nations indicate the precepts of the natural law. 10. Cf. 4 Kg 6:24-29 and Lam 4:10. 12. Deportation will not end the punishment. The sword still threatens the exiles. 13b. When the evils predicted come to pass the sufferers will recognize the prophetic character of Ezechiel's words intended for them as well as for his fellow-exiles. Communications were maintained between the exiles and the Palestinian Jews. I will be comforted expresses anthropomorphically Yahweh's satisfaction at the completion of his task. 16-17. These verses are regarded by some as a later addition. Repetitions, however, are common in Ezechiel. Blood is elsewhere coupled with pest. As distinguished here from blood shed by the sword in battle it may refer to homicides, fatal accidents, judicial executions.


VI 1-14 Announcement of the Punishment of Judah — The previous threats of chastisement were directed particularly against Jerusalem and its citizens. Now Judah and its inhabitants are similarly threatened. The hilly character of the land explains why the mountains are addressed. The high places on the hills were conspicuous centres of idolatrous worship. Sword, famine and pestilence are the instruments of chastisement. 3. 'rocks': 'water-courses'. The places personified represent their inhabitants. 4a. 'idols': 'incense altars'; cf.Is 17:8. Omit 5a, a repetition of 4b. The shrines of the idols are profaned by the bones of their worshippers. 6. 'Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be laid waste and the high places shall be desolate that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate and your idols be broken and cease and your incense altars be hewn down and your works abolished'.8. 'Yet will I leave a remnant in that ye shall have some that shall escape the sword among the nations when ye shall be scattered among the countries' (MT). The prophet addresses the Jews in Palestine. He told them in 7 that when the calamity came upon them they should recognize its author. He adds in 9 that a remnant will be converted after the deportation. LXX omits I will leave a remnant, already indicated in 5:3. The comparison of idolatry to matrimonial infidelity is common in prophetic literature. 'because I have broken': 'when I break'. 11. Clapping of hands and stamping of feet express exultation (cf. 25:6), not at the abominations but at their punishment. 13a. 'your': 'their'. Ezechiel distinguishes between his fellow-exiles ('you shall know') and the Palestinians. 14. Deblatha: Reblatha, Riblah on the Orontes at the northern end of David's kingdom identified by Ezechiel with the promised land.


VII 1-27 Second Announcement of the Punishment of Judah and Jerusalem— This prophecy has the same subject-matter as the preceding one. It emphasizes the imminence of the catastrophe, its inevitability, and its enormity. It belongs apparently to the first year of Ezechiel's mission.


1-9. The judgement is imminent. The time, the