Ezekiel, A Late Hellenistic Composition or Redaction?

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

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25 Jan. 2003 Update at end of article

This article will argue that the Book of Ezekiel is either a composition of after 165 BCE or, at the very least, it possesses redactions from that period. The "key" to dating Ezekiel this late, it being commonly asumed Ezekiel is Early Exilic, ca. 587 BCE, is his mention of Daniel, a book dated by Humanist scholarship to ca. 165 BCE, based on the detailed events of Antiochus IV Epiphanes who attempted to force the Jews to give up their beliefs.

For nearly 2000 years Jewish and Christian commentators understood that the Daniel mentioned by Ezekiel (Ez 14:14, 20; 28:3) was a reference to the Daniel in the Book of Daniel. Recent scholarship has questioned these traditions and now posits that an ancient mythical worthy called Dan'el in the the Ugaritic myths (appearing in the Story of Aqhat and his Bow), ca. 13th century BCE, must be whom Ezekiel is referring to!

Not all scholars have accepted the new identity-

Herbert G. May is representative of some who question Dan'el being Ezekiel's Daniel-

"Entry No. 1111. May, Herbert G., "The King in the Garden of Eden: A Study of Ezekiel 28:12-19." pp. 166-176, in Israel's Prophetic Heritage, ed. Bernhard W. Anderson and Walter Harrelson. New York: Harper & Bros., 1962. xiv + 242pp."

"The Daniel of Ezekiel is the Jewish Daniel of the Bible and not the Ugaritic Dan'el. The eschatology of the book of Daniel is theocratic, not messianic."

(See p.269, entry 1111, in Henry O. Thompson, The Book of Daniel, An Annotated Bibliography, [Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, vol. 1310], Garland Publishing Inc., New York & London, 1993)

Herbert G. May is the editor of the prestigious Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, RSV, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962-1977 as well as being an editor of another prestigious work, The Oxford Bible Atlas, London & New York, Oxford University Press, 1962-1983.

I would imagine that May's comments on Daniel of the Jews being Ezekiel's Daniel would be of "some weight" in some scholarly circles.

For some 2000 years both Jewish and Christian commentators understood Ezekiel's Daniel to Daniel of the OT, not Dan'el of the Ugaritic legends. Daniel is compared favorably with Noah and Job, famous for their righteousness. We know Daniel was also famous for his righteousness because the book tells us so. God's "beloved" are the righteous :

"...for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the word and understand the vision." (Da. 9:23)

"O Daniel, man greatly beloved, give heed to the words I speak to you... " (Da. 10:11)

Dan'el of the Ugaritic legends is portrayed as a righteous man well-deserving of a son (called Aqhat), but elsewhere, Ezekiel notes that the King of Tyre exceeds in wisdom, Daniel:

"Yes, you are wiser than Daniel; in no hidden matter can anyone compare to you." (Ezek 28:3, TANAKH. The Jewish Publication Society. Philadelphia.1988)

I suspect this is an allusion to the ending verses found in the Book of Daniel, where Daniel states that he did not understand the revelation revealed by God-

"I HEARD AND DID NOT UNDERSTAND, so I said, "My Lord, what will be the outcome of these things? He said, "Go, Daniel, for these words are secret and sealed to the time of the end." (Daniel 12:8-9, TANAKH)

The Ugaritic Dan'el was portrayed as pious towards the gods, and they did "reveal to him" the death of his son Aqhat, but the notion that Dan'el did not understand the revelation doesn't exist in the Ugaritic myth. Sooo, my hunch is that Ezekiel, may be a creation, or, at the very least, possess redactions, after 165 BCE, when the book of Daniel was believed to have been composed. This would explain Ezekiel's bizarre description of a Cherub, as posssing a human form, 4 faces, four wings, cloven feet accompanied by wheels covered in eyes, vs. the Sphinx which is prominent in Phoenician motifs, Solomon's Temple being designed by Phoenicians, which Humanist scholars understand to be what the Cherubim looked like ! 

Josephus, in describing the details of Solomon's temple:

"...but nobody can tell, or even conjecture, what was the shape of these cherubims." (Josephus, Antiquities 8.3.3). 

Why Josephus would make such a statement in light of Ezekiel's very detailed description is remarkable, especially as Ezekiel is supposed to be a prophet writing ca. 587 BCE. Ezekiel, if really a contemporary of Jerusalem's fall to Babylon ca. 587 BCE, should have been able to describe a cherub correctly as a Winged Sphinx, as determined by Humanist scholarship. The fact that he didn't, suggests to me that Ezekiel is a very late creation. Perhaps contemporary or nearly contemporary with Josephus. Did the writer of Ezekiel feel a need to descibe a Cherub in such detail because the contemporary generation he was writing for had no idea of what a Cherub looked like, as noted by Josephus?

It is interesting to note in regards to Daniel, that the length of the oppression of Israel is 490 years instead of 70 yrs, and when one adds that date to the fall of Jerusalem, ca. 587 BCE, we have 97 BCE as the "National restoration to grace" by God. I find it interesting that by this time, 97 BCE, the Hasmoneans have pretty much succeeded in restoring the ancient border from "Dan to Beersheba," and the oppressor, the Seleucid Greeks, are the ones being oppressed by the Hasmoneans ! Makes one wonder if Daniel wasn't composed ca. 97 BCE, doesn't it? That would make Ezekiel even later, much closer in time to Josephus' observation that no one knew what the Cherubim looked like.

I realize that ripple effects take place from redatings. But if I am right about Ezekiel's alluding to the last verses from the Book of Daniel, he can't be 587 BCE! If  I am right about Daniel being 97 BCE, the ripple effect dates Ezekiel. 

Daniel wanted to know when the oppression would cease. The oppression for him was that the Seleucid Greeks were decimating his people. He wanted to know of God when this turn of events would come to an end. When would the oppressor become the oppressed (by God)? In 97 BCE the oppressor has become the opressed. Only the appearance of Pompey and Roman forces, brought about an end of the Greeks being oppressed by the Hasmoneans. Some Greek cities in the Decapolis celebrated Pompey's arrival as a saviour, lifting the Hasmonean oppression (some Greeks being sold into slavery, others forced to become Jews and circumcised, or leave). It seems quite natural to me that Daniel's vision of 490 years ending in 97 BCE, at the height of Hasmonean power and prestige, would be an ideal time to write the Daniel story, in their days God extended His grace, making the oppressor the oppressed.

I recall that among the Qumran or Dead Sea scrolls was a composition about the Babylonian king, Nabunaidus, alluding to his being cursed by the gods and becoming like a wild insane beast for several years. Scholars have noted the parallels to Daniel's story of Nebuchadrezzar going insane for 7 years. The problem was, how to reconcile this document, of the 1st century BCE or later (?) with the Book of Daniel ca. 165 BCE? If Daniel is really ca. 97 BCE, the Nubunaid story would be a near-contemporary exemplar, perhaps reformatted for Daniel?


Ezekiel (Ez 28:3) apparently knows of the ending verses to the Book of Daniel (Dan 12:8-9), and is alluding to them when contrasting the wisdom of the King of Tyre. Ezekiel's Daniel is not the pious Dan'el of the Ugaritic myths, for that Dan'el is not portrayed as failing to understand the revelation about the death of his son Aqhat. Ezekiel's bizarre description of the Cherubim's form contradicts the understandings of Humanist scholarship, which has determined they are winged Sphinxes. This is another "marker" that Ezekiel is not all he claims to be, a contemporary witness to the fall of Jerusalem ca. 587 BCE. Ezekiel's mention of Daniel and his allusion to Daniel's failure to understand all God's revelations, is then, an important "marker," dating Ezekiel, or at the very least, redactions of Ezekiel, to some period after 165 BCE, when the Book of Daniel is believed to have been composed.

25 Jan. 2003 Update:

Cf. the following url for an article by Daniel B. Wallace, PhD. investigating various theories on Dan'el of the Ugaritic Myths and Daniel of Ezekiel, titled Who is Ezekiel's Daniel?

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