I’m posting this a week later than I probably should have… maybe that was a mistake in my pre-planning. Anyway, back on June 21st we read Ezekiel 47 at Evening Prayer, and then didn’t come back for its final chapter, 48. Before that we’d skipped chapters 44-46, and 41-42, which I briefly explained and summarized in a video that Friday. But there’s more: chapters 19-32 were skipped; that’s about 30% of the book gone right there. Chapters 38 & 39 also were omitted. Altogether, approximately 45% of Ezekiel is not in our daily lectionary. The evangelical reader is probably annoyed right now. “What gives?”
If historical precedent is any consolation….
- less than 18 chapters (38%) appear in the 1979 Book’s daily lectionary
- about 16 chapters (33%) appear in the 1928 lectionary
- maybe 13 chapter (27%) appear in the 1922 lectionary in the 1662 Book
- nearly 23 chapters (47%) are in the 19th century’s lectionary in the 1662 Book
- only 12 chapters (25%) are read in the ORIGINAL Anglican daily lectionary
So with us reading 55% of the book, that’s a massive increase compared to every Prayer Book before ours.
But of course, someone who is not as optimistic about the wisdom of the Church and the value of the Prayer Book is still going to argue: what’s “wrong” with so much of Ezekiel?
I’m not going to analyze, explain, and defend the mentality of each prayer book in our history, other than to say that Ezekiel is one of the least-accessible Prophets to read fruitfully without a great deal of study, and so when it comes to the public daily reading in the churches it is more profitable to spend time on other portions of Scripture that are more readily understandable and clear to the people in the pews. That said, let’s take a quick look at what the 2019 Prayer Book’s daily lectionary omits.
Chapters 19-32 are a series of oracles, prophecies of condemnation and judgment, against Jerusalem, Israel & Judah, Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt. They vary in style and tone, and there are few “famous” images among these chapters, such as the Ohola & Oholiba parable for the unfaithfulness of Israel & Judah. These aren’t “unimportant” chapters, as such, but they are “redundant” with a fair bit of the Prophetic Corpus of the Old Testament.
Chapters 38-39 form the prophecy against the mysterious Gog and his land, Magog. This has been interpreted in many different ways, pointing to the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Romans, and even to a yet-future world power in the End Times. When it comes down to it, this is not mere prophecy, but apocalyptic literature, which comes with its own special interpretive challenges. I suppose that the restoration of the book of Revelation into the daily lectionary has mitigated the need to to rely on its even-more-puzzling Old Testament forebear.
Chapters 41-42 and 44-46 are basically a series of pictures in prose form. Here we find the lengthy description of the New Temple, which I talked about in the video post linked at the beginning of this article. Chapter 40, in the lectionary, is sufficient for giving the reader the “establishing shot”, to use a TV/movie term, and chapter 43 describes an event or scene there. The rest, omitted, do provide additional prophetic insights of course (they are scripture), but the majority of that material is a slow slog through a lot of measurements and repetitive formulae.
Chapter 48, similarly, is an extension of the information in chapter 47; together they describe a map of new tribal allotments. You can read more about that here if you like. For the Christian, the important lesson is in the promise of God that he will bless his faithful people; the specific land boundaries are simply images that prefigure the perfection of the New Heaven & New Earth, so grinding through all the geographic descriptions is not strictly necessary for getting the point across.
That said, if you are a “completionist” when it comes to reading the Scriptures, you can always pick up this Customary’s Supplementary Midday Prayer lectionary to fill you in on the missed chapters of Ezekiel, scattered throughout the summer.