Jan 28, 2014

Review of By the River Chebar

Daniel I. Block. By the River Chebar: Historical, Literary, and Theological Studies in the Book of Ezekiel. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2013.

Anyone who has recently undertaken a serious study of Ezekiel has probably looked at Dan Block’s two-volume commentary. It is one of, if not the best, treatments of this enigmatic book. With that in mind, I was excited to read and review By the River Chebar. This work is a compilation of articles written by Block that reflects his longstanding interest in Ezekiel (p. xi). The articles include “a general essay on preaching the message of Ezekiel, a synthetic essay on the theology of the book; a series on more specific theological topics, and two literary studies focused on specific texts that frame the first half of the book (chs. 1 and 24)” (p. xi). (A companion volume entitled Beyond the River Chebar covers chapters 25–40.) These nine essays were written between 1988 and 2010.

Those familiar with, and appreciative of, Block’s work will not be disappointed here. The scholarship represented by these essays is first-rate. It is well-researched, the writing is clear, and the arguments are cogent. One will also find a number of helpful figures, tables, and lists. But this work also contains a refreshing pastoral and spiritual element. This is most evident in the first essay which relates to the preaching of Ezekiel, but it is also sprinkled throughout the other essays as well (e.g., “The God Ezekiel Wants Us to Meet,” pp. 44–72). The preaching essay should be required reading for those planning to preach through the book. It was one of my favorites. I also especially enjoyed “The Theology of Ezekiel,” “The Prophet of the Spirit.” and “Beyond the Grave: Ezekiel’s Vision of Death and Afterlife.”

Although By the River Chebar is a more selective reference than a commentary on Ezekiel, it is a good supplementary resource for those who want to dig deeper. To borrow a line from a well-known Christian hymn, “Shall we gather at the river?” The answer in this case is “yes.”

Thanks to the folks at Wipf & Stock for providing the book used in this unbiased review.

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