You are hereRevelation's Parallel Use of the Sequence of Ezekiel: Part One, by Duncan McKenzie
Revelation's Parallel Use of the Sequence of Ezekiel: Part One, by Duncan McKenzie
I am breaking this article into two parts to make it easier to read and study. It is from volume II of The Antichrist and the Second Coming: The Book of Revelation (which should be out by the end of the year). In the meantime read volume one! http://sites.google.com/site/antichristandthesecondcoming/
Revelation contains a number of allusions to the book of Ezekiel. For example, the similarities between the throne scenes at the beginning of each book (Ezek. 1; Rev. 4) are well recognized. Most commentators also acknowledge that the end of Revelation (Rev. 21-22) has a number of points of correspondence to the end of Ezekiel (Ezek. 40-48). While these parallels (and others) are well recognized, it may be that Ezekiel’s influence is more systematic and pervasive than is generally thought; Ezekiel may actually provide an outline that Revelation follows. Ian Boxall writes the following on this:
The influence of the Book of Ezekiel on the last book of the Christian Bible is indisputable. It can be detected most obviously in the many allusions to and echoes of the Old Testament writing, permeating virtually every chapter of Revelation. Isolating these allusions with precision is not always straightforward, given John’s stubborn refusal to actually quote Old Testament texts, and his tendency to evoke a range of texts from across the prophetic corpus in the same passage. Nevertheless, few would deny Ezekiel’s role as at least one dominant source for the seer of Patmos. The 4th edition of the UBS Greek New Testament, for example, lists no less than 84 allusions and verbal parallels to Ezekiel in the Apocalypse, spread across every chapter except 12-13. More recent scholarship, however, has not been content with exploring verbal connections between the two works. A number of scholars, notably Albert Vanhoye , Jeffrey Marshall Vogelgesang , Michael Goulder , and Jean-Pierre Ruiz , have argued that this influence even extends to the structural level, and (though disagreeing to the extent of this phenomena) that Revelation follows Ezekiel’s order.
Looking at the chart that Boxall supplies (see below), he is definitely onto something here. The overall sequence of Revelation does indeed parallel the sequence of Ezekiel (Note, the italicized portions are original to Boxall and indicate chapters he sees as being out of sequence.)
Revelation 1-----------------Ezekiel 1
Revelation 4-----------------Ezekiel 1
Revelation 5-----------------Ezekiel 2
Revelation 6-----------------Ezekiel 5-7
Revelation 7:1-2-------------Ezekiel 7:2-3
Revelation 7-8 --------------Ezekiel 9-10
Revelation 10---------------Ezekiel 2-3
Revelation 10-13------------Ezekiel 11-14 (echoes)
Revelation 11:1-2-----------Ezekiel 40
Revelation 13:11-18---------Ezekiel 14
Revelation 17---------------Ezekiel 16, 23
Revelation 18---------------Ezekiel 26-28
Revelation 19:11-21---------Ezekiel 29, 32 (39)
Revelation 20:1-3-----------Ezekiel 29, 32
Revelation 20:4-6-----------Ezekiel 37
Revelation 20:7-10----------Ezekiel 38:1-39:20
Revelation 20:11-15---------Ezekiel 39:21-29
Revelation 21-22------------Ezekiel 40-48
When one examines Boxall’s chart, it is clear that Revelation borrows heavily from both the content and sequence of Ezekiel. Given this, it is instructive to look at the subject of Ezekiel in helping to shed light on the subject of Revelation. Before I start, it should be noted that, while Revelation does indeed follow the sequence of Ezekiel, Revelation itself is not laid out in a strict linear fashion. For example Revelation 6:12-17 shows the “great day” of the Lord (v. 17; cf. Matt. 24:29-31). In Revelation 12:1-5, however, we are shown Satan being cast out of heaven at Jesus’ ascension (cf. John 12:31-32). Just because Revelation 12 comes after Revelation 6, that does not necessarily mean the events of chapter 12 happen after the events of chapter 6. Revelation has a number of recapitulations; that is, a number of times the narrative brings one to the day of the Lord and then backs up and discusses similar themes that again bring one to the day of the Lord. This explains why the day of the Lord is already being shown in chapter 6. Notice how chapter 7 backs up and shows the sealing of God’s servants (v. 3) just prior to the great tribulation; it then skips ahead and shows God’s people having victoriously come through the tribulation (vv. 9-14; cf. Luke 21:16, 18).
In Ezekiel 1 the prophet sees four living creatures (with faces like a man, lion, ox, and eagle) in the context of God on his throne in heaven. This is what John sees (with some variations) in Revelation 4. In Ezekiel 2, the prophet is told he is being sent “. . . to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation . . .” (v. 3). Ezekiel is given a scroll with writing on the inside and on the outside that is full of lamentations and woe for Israel (Ezek. 2:9-10). The same kind of two-sided scroll is shown in Revelation 5 (vv. 1-7). Both Ezekiel and John are instructed to eat their respective scrolls; both scrolls are said to be sweet “like honey” (Ezek. 3:1-4; Rev. 10:8-11).
In Ezekiel 4 the famine resulting from the sixth-century BC siege of Jerusalem is portrayed; it would become so bad that basic foodstuffs would be measured by weight (Ezek. 4:7-17). The same measuring of foodstuffs by weight is shown in Revelation 6:5-6; this famine would be the result of the first-century siege of Jerusalem. In Ezekiel 5 the prophet is told that four plagues would be brought on Jerusalem: “So I will send against you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword against you . . .” (Ezek. 5:17). These plagues correspond to Revelation’s second seal (a great sword), the third seal (famine) and the fourth seal (death by “sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth”) Revelation 6:3-8 NASB. It should be noted that the Greek word gē is often better translated as “Land” in Revelation (i.e., the land of Israel) rather than “earth.” Also note that in Ezekiel 5 the manner of the destruction of Jerusalem is described: it is said that one third would be destroyed by famine and pestilence, one third by the sword and one third would go into captivity (v. 11). Compare this with the threefold division of the great city (where Jesus was crucified, Rev. 11:8) in Revelation 16:17-21.
In Ezekiel 6 God talks of how he would scatter Israel’s slain “among their idols around their altars” (v. 13). In an inversion of this, the fifth seal of Revelation shows the slain of God’s people protected under the altar in heaven. They ask how long it will be before God judges those who dwell on the Land—they are told they will not have to wait much longer (Rev. 6:9-11). In Ezekiel 7 the day of God’s “wrath” has arrived on Jerusalem and the land of Israel. This is paralleled in the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12-17) where we are told, “. . . the great day of His wrath has come . . .” (v. 17). Revelation tells us that men would hide in caves at this time and beg for the mountains to fall on them in an attempt to hide from God’s wrath (Rev. 6:15-16). This is the day of the Lord that Jesus said would come on Jerusalem and the generation that rejected him (Luke 23:29; cf. Josephus, The Jewish War 6, 7, 3).
In Ezekiel 9 a mark is put on the foreheads of the righteous in Jerusalem just before judgment goes forth on the Land. This parallels Revelation 7, where God’s people are marked on their foreheads with his seal (v. 3) right before the great tribulation occurs (v. 14). It should be noted that while there is some universalization here (i.e., the judgments of the great tribulation would come on the whole inhabited earth, cf. Rev. 10:11; 16:10), these judgments would focus on the dwellers on the Land (Rev. 3:10; cf. Dan. 11:40-12:7; Matt. 24:15-21). In Ezekiel 10 an angelic figure takes coals of fire from between the cherubim and scatters them over Jerusalem. This is paralleled in Revelation 8:3-5 where an angel takes coals from the altar and casts them to the earth.
In Ezekiel 12 (vv. 17-28) the prophet is told that the judgment on Jerusalem and the Land will not be postponed any longer. This parallels Revelation 10:1-7 where we are told that there “should be delay no longer” when the seventh trumpet sounds (vv. 6-7). The seventh trumpet is sounded in Revelation 11:15-18; it results in the kingdom of this world becoming the kingdom of God at the destruction of those who were (morally) destroying the Land (Rev. 11:15-18 NASB; cf. Dan. 7:21-27; 12:7).
In Ezekiel 13 God denounces the false prophets of Israel who see visions of peace for Jerusalem “when there is no peace” (v. 16). In Ezekiel 14 God tells the elders of Israel that those who set up idols in their heart will be punished. This parallels Revelation 13, where the beast from the Land (later referred to as a “false prophet” Rev. 16:13; 19:20) sets up an idol and requires the dwellers on the Land to worship it (vv. 11-18). Boxall notes that “the false prophet [of Rev. 13:11-18] who leads astray and encourages idolatry encompasses a number of themes found in Ezekiel 14 (e.g., Ezek 14:3-7, 9, 11). Indeed Ezekiel 14:15 speaks explicitly of God sending wild animals/ beasts through the land.”
In Ezekiel 15 God says that he will burn Jerusalem just as wood from a grapevine is burned, and will make the Land desolate (vv. 6-8). This is paralleled in Revelation 14 where an angel with power over fire commands the vine of the Land to be gathered. That Revelation is not just following the sequence of Ezekiel but is also retaining its essential meaning here is shown in the distance that the blood from the resulting judgment covers. Revelation 14:20 says the blood from this judgment covers a distance of one thousand six hundred furlongs—the north to south length of the Land. Thus, like Ezekiel, Revelation is speaking of the destruction of the vine of the land of Israel, not some supposed vine of the earth (See Is. 5 and Matt 21:33-45 for the vineyard motif as a picture of Israel.)
Ezekiel 16 speaks of the harlotries of Jerusalem (i.e., her going after the gods and ways of the Gentiles, vv. 15-32). God proclaims that her lovers would turn on her and burn her with fire (vv. 35-43). This is exactly what happens to harlot Babylon in Revelation 17-18; the beast she is committing whoredom with (Rome), turns on her and destroys her with fire (Rev. 17:11-18). In Ezekiel this speaks of the sixth-century BC destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar. In Revelation this speaks of the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Titus (cf. Dan. 9:26-27).
Ezekiel 23 also speaks of the harlotries of the nation of Israel. In this chapter Jerusalem (the capital of the southern kingdom) and Samaria (the capital of the northern kingdom) are pictured as harlot sisters of one mother (the nation of Israel). In Revelation 17:5 we are shown this “mother of harlots.” In Ezekiel 22 Jerusalem is referred to as “the bloody city.” This is paralleled in Revelation where harlot Babylon is said to be drunk of the blood of the saints and martyrs (Rev. 17:6), and that she is guilty of all the righteous blood shed on the Land (Rev. 18:24). This is the same bloodguilt that Jesus proclaimed against the leaders of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:29-37.
In Ezekiel 24:15-22 the sixth-century BC destruction of the Temple is likened to the death of Ezekiel’s wife. This is paralleled in Revelation 17-18 with the death of harlot Babylon. The harlot claims she is still a wife (a queen), but with the death of her Husband (Jesus), she became a widow (Rev. 18:7-8). As I mentioned earlier, the subject of Revelation is that of two women/cities who are two wives who represent the two covenants (Gal. 4:21-31). The death of the harlot in Revelation is the death of God’s old covenant wife (cf. Ezek. 16:32); she was destroyed in the AD 70 burning of Jerusalem and the Temple.
The death of a wife as a symbol of the destruction of the Temple is a crucial parallel between Ezekiel and Revelation. Interestingly enough, Jewish tradition tells us that the death of theses two wives/temples happened on the exact same day—the 9th of Av (586 BC/AD 70). Looking at Boxall’s chart, he makes no connection here. This is probably because he sees harlot Babylon as being related to Rome, not Jerusalem. I think he is missing a central parallel here. I would thus add Ezekiel 24 to chapters 26-28 in Boxall’s chart as being parallels to Revelation 18; this continues the sequence nicely.
In Ezekiel 26-28 there are lamentations over the fall of Tyre. This is paralleled in the lamentations over the fall of harlot Babylon in Revelation 18:9-20. In Ezekiel 27 the fall of Tyre is likened to the sinking of a ship that loses its merchandise (v. 34); this merchandise is listed in verses 12-24. In Revelation 18 the merchandise of harlot Babylon is similarly listed (vv. 12-13); the merchants who supplied these goods mourn their economic loss at the city’s destruction (vv. 9-20). At first glance this looks like a shift in subject, as there is seemingly little connection between the merchandise of a pagan city like Tyre and the merchandise of the Temple. Those familiar with the Temple would have seen connections here, however. First, Jerusalem has already been likened to a pagan city in Revelation 11:8 (i.e., Sodom, cf. Ezek. 16:46, 49). Second, it was the king of Tyre who helped build the first Temple—compare its merchandise (2 Chronicles 2:11-16) with that of harlot Babylon. The merchandise listed in Revelation 18:12 consists of materials used in the Temple buildings and garments of the high priest; the merchandise listed in verse 13 consists of materials used in the sacrifices and offerings. Added to all this, the only currency allowed in the Temple was that of Tyre. Thus, the mourning over the lost commerce of Tyre finds a parallel in the mourning over the lost commerce of the Temple.
The merchandise of harlot Babylon in Revelation 18 is also influenced by Ezekiel 16. In that chapter harlot Jerusalem is portrayed as being dressed in the furnishings of the tabernacle, her “food” consisting of items used in the sacrifices (vv. 10-13). This parallels the harlot Babylon being dressed in the furnishings of the Temple and garments of the High Priest (Rev. 17:4; 18:16), her “merchandise” consisting of these items as well as those used in the sacrifices (Rev. 18:12-13).
In part two I will continue examining the parallel sequence between Ezekiel and Revelation. I will also explore in a bit more depth the degree to which Revelation is retaining the basic meaning of Ezekiel. To read part two go here: http://planetpreterist.com/content/revelations-parallel-use-sequence-eze...
1 Ian Boxall, “Exile, Prophet, Visionary: Ezekiel’s Influence on the Book of Revelation” in The Book of Ezekiel and its Influence, eds. H. J. de Jonge, Johannes Tromp (Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2007), 147. Boxall gives the following references for the scholars he cites: Albert Vanhoye, “L’ utilisation du livre d’ Ezéchiel dans l’ Apocalypse”, Biblica 43 (1962) 436-76. J.M. Vogelgesang, The Interpretation of Ezekiel in the Book of Revelation (Unpublished PhD Thesis, Southern Baptist theological Seminary, 1981). Michael Goulder, “The Apocalypse as an Annual Cycle of Prophecies”, NTS 27, 1981, 342-367. Jean-Pierre Ruiz, Ezekiel in the Apocalypse: The Transformation of Prophetic Language in Revelation 16:17-19:10 (European University Studies 23/376, 1989), Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang
2 Ian Boxall, The Revelation of Saint John, Black’s New Testament Commentaries General Editor: Morna D. Hooker, (Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 255
3 Smalley writes that the second use of “destroy” in Revelation 11:18 carries the meaning of “to ruin” in a moral sense:
“The writer uses a play on words which balances the literal sense of complete destruction with its figurative counterpart of ‘to ruin’, in the sense of ‘(morally) deprave’ (similarly Rev. 2:2; 14:8; et al.) See BDAG 239b.” Stephen S. Smalley, The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 293.
4 Ian Boxall, “Exile, Prophet, Visionary” in The Book of Ezekiel and its Influence, 154.
5 As Ladd notes, this “is a distance of about a hundred and eighty-four miles—the entire length of Palestine. The entire land is pictured as being inundated in blood to a depth of about four feet.” George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 202.
Mounce provides the following reference on this: “In the Itinerarium of Antonius, Palestine was said to be 1664 stadia from Tyre to El-Arish (on the borders of Egypt).” Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed., 281 footnote.
6 Boxall, The Revelation of Saint John, 243-244. Boxall gives three main possibilities for the identity of harlot Babylon in Revelation: 1 Jerusalem. 2. Rome. He prefers a third interpretation that sees Rome as the latest incarnation of the evil city of Babylon. He writes,
“To say that Babylon equals Rome is to fail to do justice to the richness of John’s vision. More satisfying is the third interpretation, which acknowledges the echoes of imperial Rome, but does not regard such echoes as exhausting the meaning of this woman-city. Babylon is not Rome; rather Rome represents the latest incarnation of the oppressive and idolatrous city, ‘the great city’, which originally bore the features of Mesopotamian Babylon” pg. 244.
In another place Boxall writes, “Note [John’s] radical transformation of Ezekiel 16 and 23, to speak no longer about Jerusalem, but about oppressive Babylon in her present incarnation as imperial Rome (Revelation 17).” Ian Boxall, “Exile, Prophet, Visionary” in The Book of Ezekiel and its Influence, footnote on pg. 159.
I strongly disagree with Boxall on this: Revelation is retaining the essential meaning of the harlot motif found in Ezekiel (and almost all the rest of the OT) in talking about harlot Babylon. I will go into detail on this in my chapters on Revelation 17 and 18.
7 Ford notes, “the wares cited [in Ezekiel and Revelation] differ considerably; those cited [in Revelation 18:12-13] appear to be more in keeping with those which would be used for the temple and its services.” J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation, The Anchor Bible, vol. 38, eds. William R. Albright and David N. Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1975), 304-305.
8 Gordon Franz, “The Tyrian Shekel and the Temple of Jerusalem” Associates for Biblical Research, http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/11/The-Tyrian-Shekel-and-the-T...