[b-hebrew] Ezek 3:26

Jerry Shepherd jshepherd53 at gmail.com
Tue Jul 16 13:54:07 EDT 2013

In Ezekiel 3:26 there is an occurrence of the verb YKX (יכח) in participial
form.  The grand majority of translations and commentators take for granted
that the verb in this instance means to “rebuke,” or to “reprove.”  This
has always been a conundrum because, on the one hand, it seems that the
verse is saying that Ezekiel will be silent and unable to rebuke the people.
On the other hand, rebuking the people is exactly what he does for the next
twenty-some chapters.  Robert R. Wilson in a couple of articles, and Daniel
Block in his massive commentary on Ezekiel, have cogently argued that YKX
in this particular passage does not mean to “rebuke,” but rather means
something along the lines of to “defend,” “arbitrate,” “plead,” or even
“intercede.”  Thus, what Ezekiel is told here is that for a period of time
he will be unable to exercise the normal prophetic prerogative of being an
intercessor, a defender, an arbitrator on behalf of the people (cf. Jer
7:16; 11:14; 14:11-1).  That period of silence comes finally comes to an
end in 33:21 when an escapee from Jerusalem arrives among the exiles and
reports the news of the fall of  Jerusalem.  Ezekiel’s mouth is opened, and
though he still has some rebuking things to say, a more positive tone and
hopeful message come out in the chapters to follow.

Important for this whole discussion is the meaning of the verb YKX.  In its
59 occurrences, it has a wide variety of meanings, or to put it another
way, a wide semantic range.  Negatively, it means to “reprove,” “rebuke”
(Lev 19:17), to “accuse” (Hos 4:4; Amos 5:10; Mic 6:2), even bleeding over
into the area of punishing and executing (2 Sam 7:14).  More neutrally, it
means to simply decide the facts of the case and render a decision in a
dispute between two or more parties (Gen 31:37; Isa 2:4; 11:3-4).  More
positively, and more pertinent for Wilson’s and Block’s suggestion for Ezek
3:26, are those instances where it means to present one’s arguments in a
particular matter, or to make a plea for another person (Job 9:33; 13:3,
15; 16:21; 23:7).  It can refer to the idea of vindication (Gen 20:16), and
it can even mean “to appoint” or to “decree” or “to choose” (Gen 24:14, 44).

There is certainly room for subjectivity in how the meanings are assigned
in the different passages. But what is important for the discussion is
that, while all of these usages can be seen as being related to or
developed from a particular concept, the way the word has been used in its
various contexts, very different meanings have in fact developed.  And
these meanings fall into different semantic domains.  The usage in Gen
20:16, for example, belongs to a different semantic domain than, say, the
usage in 2 Sam 7:14.  And very important to note is that some of the
developed meanings are opposites.  To rebuke or accuse someone is a
directly opposite meaning to that of defending that person or pleading
their case or arbitrating for them.

So, this lexeme has several different meanings.  It does not have just one
meaning.  It even has opposite meanings.  And none of those meanings are
unique—the same semantic notion could have been expressed with another
synonymous or near synonymous lexeme or cluster of words.

Responses invited.


Jerry Shepherd
Taylor Seminary
Edmonton, Alberta
jshepherd53 at gmail.com
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