Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Rock of Gibraltar

A question from a commenter got be thinking some more about the Ezk 38-39. 

i) I don't have anything to add to the linguistic analysis of place-names/proper-names, over and above scholars like Block, Hummel, and Yamauchi.

ii) I think Ezekiel is using names with allusive, historical resonance to denote enemies at the outer limits of the known world. This is something of a Biblical trope, like John's reference to invaders from the East (Rev 9:13-19; 16:12). If Ezekiel were a medieval writer, he might say Thule or the Rock of Gibraltar to denote ends of the world. 

What's constitutes the outer limits of the known world varies according to the geographical knowledge of the author or audience. And that varies in time and place. Wherever you live is the frame of reference. What lies beyond in relation to where you live. The circumference in relation to your center. Likewise, as time goes on, the boundaries of the known world expand. 

iii) That's a consideration if we regard Ezk 38-39 to be a long-range prophecy. Even if, by direct revelation, Ezekiel knew about North and South America, Japan, Australia, &c., he wouldn't name them because that would be unintelligible to his audience.

Ezekiel's geography may reflect an ancient Near Eastern outlook because, in fact, that's where the oracle will be fulfilled. Or it may reflect that outlook because that's the only frame of reference his audience had. 

iv) One hermeneutical question is whether this is about God protecting Jews in the land of Israel. Even if you think this is about Jews, it's not as if the Jews are confined to Palestine. There's the Diaspora. Consider the huge Jewish population center in 1C Alexandria. 

Suppose we think this is a prophecy about Jews in the future. But it's not as if all Jews reside in Palestine, or that all their enemies inhabit the Middle East. The Jewish Diaspora is world-wide. What about Jewish population centers in New York or Los Angeles? 

It's arbitrary to freeze Ezekiel's geography in the ANE, while moving the fulfillment into the modern world. Anachronistic to update the timeline while leaving the geographical setting in place. For the passage of time affects population distribution. 

v) There's the additional the question of whether Ezk 38-39 singles out the Jews, or whether it concerns the people of God generally. What about Christians? 

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