The Cruel Theology of Ezekiel 20

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Readers and commentators throughout the generations engaged with the disturbing statement in the book of Ezekiel, claiming that God gave Israel «statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live» (20:25). Since this statement might have undervalued, as argued in early Christian commentaries, the worth of Jewish rituals, Ezekiel's words were obscured or narrowed down in later Jewish interpretations. Modern commentators brought the verse back into consideration, indicating the intentions of God to hurt the people as understood from the verse within its context. Nevertheless some of the commentators kept reducing the radical implications of the statement by minimizing it into one specific law or assigning it to a speaker other than God. This article suggests a way to read the statement literarily in view of the historical retrospective in which it is embedded. This historical retrospective involves two contradictory approaches regarding the divine retribution paradigm, making God's imposition of evil laws upon his people not only plausible but necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-58
Number of pages12
JournalZeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


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