Like a collection of classic literature gathering dust on a shelf, Ezekiel remains an admired but closed book for many. We know it is important, but we don’t read it. However, random highlights are embedded in our consciousness; if not the valley of dry bones vision, then the battle of Gog and Magog, or the eight chapters describing a temple. These visions play a large role in the end-times theology of many, even if they remain unread! In fairness, Ezekiel can be a difficult book, not least due to the cultural and historic distance between ourselves and the ancient prophet from the East. A sure guide to the book of Ezekiel, Daniel Block has contributed two collections of essays that sit alongside his massive and magisterial commentaries on the book. I have already reviewed his first, and in this review, I will discuss the second, entitled Beyond the River Chebar.
Psychedelic visions, “crazy man” activities, risqué r-rated parables, and a final LOTR-scale epic battle, it’s strange to me that Ezekiel is overlooked. Isn’t everything listed above on the TV shows today that people watch? Not Christians, of course… and perhaps this is why Ezekiel is avoided! Or perhaps we simply need an able guide; and who better to explain this enigmatic book than Daniel Block who has studied it for more than twenty-five years and produced what is widely considered its greatest commentary? Admittedly, reading Block’s two-volume work is a little daunting even for nerds, so you may be glad to know that he has produced two smaller topical books on Ezekiel. In this post I will review the first, entitled By the River Chebar: Historical, Literary, and Theological Studies in the Book of Ezekiel. I will also review the second title in due course.