AUSTRALIAN BIBLICAL REVIEW
BOOK REVIEW Published in Volume 58, 2010
HORACE D. HUMMEL, Ezekiel 1–20, Ezekiel 21–48 (Concordia Commentary; St. Louis: Concordia, 2005, 2007). Pp. xxiv + 615. Each vol. $US42.99.
This massive commentary on the book of Ezekiel is attractively produced and very easy to use. One is immediately confronted with its confessional standpoint which seeks to do justice to the historical context of Ezekiel’s ministry and also to the Christological teaching which Hummel finds embedded in the text. It stands very much in the Lutheran tradition, in which, for example, Law and Gospel are overarching doctrines. The approach is uniformly conservative with Ezekiel himself regarded as by far the most likely editor of the book.
Although Hummel approaches the text from such a different perspective from almost all other modern commentators, he is generally thoroughly conversant with their work and often quotes from them. His introduction well explains his approach and includes a number of ‘icons,’ which are placed prominently in the margins to indicate the topics discussed. He is especially concerned to provide encouragement and input for the preacher, the teacher and for the pastor. Ezekiel’s calling includes very much that of the ‘pastor’ or ‘watchman’ of the flock as the prophet expresses it. At times, one feels that the commentary is directed too much to the needs of clergy.
Each section begins with his own lively translation, which is well worth study in conjunction with the extensive textual notes which follow immediately. These are based on the Hebrew text and include a discussion of alternative suggestions, as well as the readings found in the Septuagint. He then launches into his lengthy commentary, which as noted above, includes much that is specifically New Testament and Christian.
The book of Ezekiel contains chapters that puzzle and divide commentators. The Temple Vision of Chapters 40–48 are not least among these. Are the prescriptions and plans to be literally followed and built? Hummel’s biblical answer is negative, and he finds not the slightest evidence that Ezekiel’s contemporaries ever understood the vision to be a literal program for rebuilding the temple. The positive point is that Yahweh will return to his restored people and never again leave them, but dwell among them forever. He agrees with the Jewish commentator Jon Levenson that Protestant attitudes to the law and the priesthood have not aided a serious and sympathetic approach of these chapters.
Ezekiel provides much that is confronting and the book contains many paradoxes. It also makes a fascinating and worthwhile study and it should not be forgotten that Ezekiel was regarded as entertaining by those who flocked to hear him (31:31–33). In this way he communicated his serious message.
Hummel has most certainly made a major contribution to the study of the book. It should not be brushed aside because of its distinctive standpoint. I especially recommend that the translation and the textual notes not be neglected.
John W. Wilson
Anglican Diocese of Melbourne