Ezekiel's Presentation of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

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David Forrest Mitchell


Since the publication of Paul Joyce's thesis Divine Initiative and Human Response in Ezekiel there has been a strong consensus around the radical theocentricity of Ezekiel's work, especially in the restoration of the exiled people. Suspecting that aspects of this concept may be overstated, this paper seeks to examine Ezekiel's presentation of the relationship between God's sovereignty and initiative and human responsibility and response in an exegetical manner. The paper establishes with reasonable confidence that the book was written primarily for an exilic audience at the conclusion of Ezekiel's ministry (or at least that this is the way the book is presented). It examines the context of the exilic community as this is critical for understanding the desired outcomes of the prophetic book. Working systematically through the most relevant passages from the MT, namely ch. 1, chs. 2-3, ch. 18, 36:16-38 and 37:114, the paper examines what each says about Yahweh's sovereign initiative and/or human responsibility and response. It concludes that Ezekiel's book demonstrates a complex co-existence of radical divine sovereignty and ongoing human responsibility and this relationship depends upon the word of Yahweh and work of the Spirit. The book does indeed present a radically theocentric picture of Yahweh but people retain responsibility to live according to the covenant and to repent of failure. In spite of rebellion and consistent failure to honour Yahweh, even though they are dead and buried, Ezekiel's prophecy is intended to change the people. This never negates Yahweh's sovereign initiative. Instead, Ezekiel's prophetic action comes entirely from Yahweh who controls Ezekiel and by his Spirit brings the work to completion. As a prophet constrained to obedience, Ezekiel's relationship with Yahweh may also offer a window into the relationship between Yahweh and the exilic community.

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How to Cite
Mitchell, David Forrest. “Ezekiel’s Presentation of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility”. Reformed Theological Review 76, no. 2 (August 9, 2017). Accessed February 7, 2023. https://rtrjournal.org/index.php/RTR/article/view/158.
Author Biography

David Forrest Mitchell, Trinity Theological College Perth

David Mitchell is the Senior Minister of Dongara-Mingenew Anglican Church and a MTh Candidate at Trinity Theological College.