Diglossia, Revelation, And Ezekiel’s Inaugural Rite -- By: Daniel C. Fredericks
JETS 41:2 (June 1998) p. 189
And Ezekiel’s Inaugural Rite
* Daniel Fredericks is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Belhaven College, 1500 Peachtree Street, Jackson, MS 39202–1789.
The cumbersome and grammatically inappropriate and irritating opening chapter of Ezekiel may be a rhetorical device, where irregular language may attempt to highlight an alleged supremacy of a relatively pristine literary language of classical Biblical Hebrew found in the rest of Ezekiel and the Hebrew Bible (HB). It appears that a dramatic entry of Ezekiel onto the prophetic scene intends at the same time to reaffirm standard literary Hebrew as the only acceptable means to convey God’s thoughts to the world. A convergence of factors leads to this suggestion: the nature of prophetic calls, an emphasis on language and speaking in Ezekiel 1–3, the nature of the linguistic corruptions in Ezekiel’s inaugural vision, the social crisis of exiled Israel, priestly penchants, and the use of dramatic/rhetorical devices in the book as a whole.
I. Servant Calls
Prophetic and priestly calls occur along with purification rites and statements about language and speaking often enough in the HB to recommend a look into Ezekiel’s call and, specifically, God’s linguistic concerns in that call. This may be of some help in understanding why such a grammatically anomalous and corrupt text introduces this prophetic book. Form-critical studies on the prophetic call narratives in the HB have revealed some consistencies between calls, including Ezekiel’s.1 They are found in the calls of Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, Isaiah, the high priest Jeshua, and Ezekiel. Two of these common components will be highlighted: (1) the presence of an impediment to the success of the mission to which God is calling the servant, and (2) God’s encouragement and rectification of any impediments. For instance, Moses claims he is not eloquent (Exod 4:10), but God’s response is that he alone creates the deaf and mute and that his divine presence will teach Moses what to say (vv. 11–12). Gideon claims to be the least man in the weakest clan of Manasseh (Judg 6:15), but God’s assurance to Gideon is both his divine presence and Gideon’s certain victory (v. 16). Jeremiah claims that his impediment is his immature speech, presumably lacking the stately
JETS 41:2 (June 1998) p. 190
speech of an experienced prophet (
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