126. The Old Testament. The Books of Ezekiel and Daniel.

The Book of Ezekiel focuses on the multiple warnings from God to the peoples of Israel through the visions of Ezekiel, to repent from their idolatory, usury, violence and adultery, and follow His statutes, lest He consume them with the fire of His wrath : pestilence, war and famine, with the merest handful surviving to be restored to His favour.

The Book of Daniel describes Daniel’s visions and miracles at the Babylonian court under the reigns of Nebuchanezzar, Belshazzah, and the Persian kings Darius and Cyrus.

Reading from the Authorised King James Version (Collins, 1934)

My thoughts: 

A reminder that my comments and opinions on my reading of the Bible are in terms  of it as a work of literature and a reading experience only. No comment is made on the religious significance or validity of the Books.

Again, the Book of Ezekiel shows a lot of repetition of phrases within and across verses and chapters – the sort of writing which may have acted as an aide memoir for oral retelling . On the written page, this quickly becomes tiresome. Later chapters use parables to describe their fate, which are more interesting (particularly the lioness’ cubs representing the Israelites, captured first by the Egyptians and then the Babylonians) and distressing (the cities of Samaria and Jerusalem as sisters whose lewdness and whoredom with neighbouring countries brings about horrific retributions).

And here I think I realised why this is such an unpleasant book to read : it is not the promise of death and suffering that carries over from Lamentations, but the anger of the Lord for these, His chosen people. Yes, they have blasphemed and transgressed and done all manner of vile things, including sacrificing their own children, but the sheer fury in the messages from an All-Powerful being is equally disturbing, and reinforces the view of the Old Testament God as an extremely  harsh and jealous overlord.

The Book goes on to promise destruction on the surrounding civilisations including Egypt again, before returning to provide future blessings for the remaining Israelites, scoured clean of their sins. God gives Ezekiel a vision of a valley of dry bones which He causes to be made into living people again and states that these are the Israelites brought back to life, which also made me feel a real sense of horror, although I don’t know if that is the intended impact.

Leaving Ezekiel there, I went on to Daniel which is a more linear story  describing the fate of Daniel and his companions at the Babylonian court after the siege of Jerusalem. The first half includes the familiar story of Daniel in the Lions’ den, but then returns to visions and prophecies and soon lost my interest.

Diversions and digressions:  My attention was drawn early on by the description of the Cherubim attending the Lord in Ezekiel’s visions. Not the rosy-cheeked Cupid-like little boys as painted by Rubens, but

“four living creatures … the likeness of a man, … four faces, and everyone had four wings …. The sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot, and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass … the hands of a man under their wings …. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side, and they four had the face of an oxen on their left side, and they also had the face of an eagle…”                                          Ezekiel 1: 5-10

Personal rating: Lifted to a 3/10 by the stories of the miracles of Daniel and his companions.

Next : The Writings of Mencius, a Chinese philosopher, apparently second only to Confucius.

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