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Book of Ezekiel

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Ezekiel

The prophet Ezekiel depicted on a Sistine Chapel fresco by Michelangelo in 1510.

The Book of Ezekiel is a book of the Hebrew Bible named after the prophet Ezekiel, a prophet from the sixth-century BC.[1] This book records Exekiel's preaching. His name (Hb. Yekhezqe’l) means "God strengthens" or "May God strengthen". Ezekiel lived out his prophetic career among the community of exiled Judeans in Babylon. He belonged to the priestly class and was married (see Ezk. 24:15-24), but it is doubtful that he had any children.

The use of a lot of vivid, symbolic language causes this book to have much in common with the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. [2]

Biography Edit

The Book of Ezekiel gives little detail about Ezekiel's life. He is mentioned only twice by name: Ezk. 1:3, where he writes that he was a priest, the son of Buzi; and Ezk. 24:24. He was one of the Israelite exiles, who settled in Tel-abib, on the banks of the Chebar, "in the land of the Chaldeans." He was most likely taken captive with King Jehoiachin (Ezk. 1:2; 2 Kings 24:14-16) about 597 BC.

The Jewish exiles repeatedly visited him to obtain a divine oracle (Ezk. 8, 14, and 20). However, Ezekiel exerted no permanent influence upon them, and repeatedly called them a "rebellious house" (see Ezk. 2:5-6, 8; 3:9, 26-27). If the enigmatical date, "the thirtieth year" (Ezk. 1:1), is understood to apply to the age of the prophet, then Ezekiel would have been born during the time of the spiritual reform of King Josiah.

Ezekiel lost his wife in the ninth year of his exile, by some sudden and unforeseen stroke (Ezk. 8:1; 24:18). The time and manner of his own death are unknown. Today his tomb is reputed to be located in the neighborhood of Hilla or ancient Babylon, at a place called Al Kifl.

Date Edit

Ezekiel's prophesies are more frequently dated than those of other Jewish prophets.[1] The first date of the book takes the reader to the summer of 593 BC, five years after the first group of exiles was deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. The latest-dated oracle comes 22 years after that summer, in April of 571 BC. It can be dated based on the links it records between the rule of King Jehoiachin (King of Jerusalem) and the other events that the book describes. According to this system, Ezekiel was originally written in the 22 years between 593-571 BC.

The following table lists events in Ezekiel with their dates:

Event Verse Reference Date (BC)
Chariot Vision (Merkabah)    1:1-3      April 5, 593
Call to be a Watchman    3:16      June 13, 593
Temple Vision    8:1      August 23, 592
Discourse with Elders    20:1      July 19, 591
Second Siege of Jerusalem       24:1      December 22, 589
Judgment on Tyre   26:1      March 30, 587
Judgment on Egypt   29:1      December 13, 588
Judgment on Egypt   29:17      March 3, 571
Judgment on Egypt   30:20      April 5, 587
Judgment on Egypt   31:1      May 28, 587
Lament over Pharaoh   32:1      February 18, 586
Lament over Egypt   32:17      April 2, 586
Fall of Jerusalem   33:21      December 13, 586
New Temple Vision   40:1      September 26, 573

Content Edit

Outline Edit

  1. Inaugural Vision (1:1–3:27)[1]
  2. Judgment on Jerusalem and Judah (4:1–24:27)
  3. Oracles against Foreign Nations (25:1–32:32)
  4. After the Fall of Jerusalem (33:1–39:29)
  5. Vision of Restoration (40:1–48:35)
     

SummaryEdit

The first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel is a description of Ezekiel's visionary encounter with the Lord who appears to him upon a chariot (see Merkabah) composed of 4 living creatures each having 4 faces and calf's feet. This agglomeration is carried about by some unusual beryl colored wheels which are also described in considerable detail. Following this introduction, Ezekiel contains three distinct sections.

  1. Judgment on Israel - Ezekiel makes a series of denunciations against his fellow Judeans (3:22-24), warning them of the certain destruction of Jerusalem, in opposition to the words of the false prophets (4:1-3). The symbolic acts, by which the extremities to which Jerusalem would be reduced are described in Chapters 4 and 5, show his intimate acquaintance with the Levitical legislation. (See, for example, Exodus 22:30; Deuteronomy 14:21; Leviticus 5:2; 7:18,24; 17:15; 19:7; 22:8)
  2. Prophecies against various neighboring nations: against the Ammonites (Ezek. 25:1-7), the Moabites (25:8-11), the Edomites (25:12-14), the Philistines (25:15-17), Tyre and Sidon (26-28), and against Egypt (29-32).
  3. Prophecies delivered after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II: the triumphs of Israel and of the kingdom of God on earth (Ezek. 33-39); Messianic times, and the establishment and prosperity of the kingdom of God (40-48).

Historical background Edit

The Book of Ezekiel was written for the captives of the tribe of Judah living in exile in Babylon following the Siege of Jerusalem of 597 BC. Up until that exile, their custom had been to worship their God in the Temple in Jerusalem. Exile raised important theological questions. How, the Judeans asked, could they worship their God when they were now in a distant land? Was their God still available to them? Ezekiel speaks to this problem. He first explains that the Judean exile is a punishment for disobedience and he then offers hope to the exiles, suggesting that the exile will be reversed once they return to God.

Unlike their ancestors, who were enslaved and socially marginalized while in exile in Egypt, the Jews of Ezekiel's time were able to become part of the society they found themselves in. The Exiles were told by Jeremiah not to worship the foreign gods, but Jeremiah did tell them that they could become part of the Babylonian culture. They did this well, often being called upon by the Babylonians to complete projects using their skills as artisans. Unlike other enemies, the Babylonians allowed the Jewish people to settle in small groups. While keeping their religious and national identities, many Jewish people did start to settle into their new environment. From building homes to opening businesses, the Jews seemed to settle into their exile land for the long haul.

This growing comfort in Babylon helps to explain why so many Jewish people decided not to return to their land. Many people would have been born in exile and would know nothing of their old land, so when the opportunity came for them to reclaim the land that was taken from them, many decided not to leave the Babylonian land they knew. This large group of people who decided to stay are known to be the oldest of the Jewish diaspora communities along with the Jews of Persia.

Ezekiel's resurrection of the dead Edit

Ezekiel's greatest miracle consisted in his resurrection of the dead, which is recounted in Ezek. xxxvii. There are different traditions as to the fate of these men, both before and after their resurrection, and as to the time at which it happened.

Views of Jewish commentators Edit

Jewish Bible commentators have been greatly divided on the interpretation of this section, and fall into two categories. One group believes that this event actually took place, while another group believes that Ezekiel was actually recording one of his prophetic visions.

In the former group, some rabbinic Jewish sources say that the resurrected men were godless people who had committed sins. Other rabbinic sources say that they were those Ephraimites who tried to escape from Egypt before Moses, and perished in the attempt. Some state that after Nebuchadnezzar had carried the youths of Judah to Babylon, he had them executed and their bodies mutilated, because their beauty had entranced the Babylonian women, and that it was these youths whom Ezekiel called back to life.

In the rabbinic midrash literature, it is written that the miracle was performed on the same day on which the three men were cast into the fiery furnace; namely, on Shabbat and Yom Kippur, (Cant. Rabbah vii. 9). Nebuchadnezzar, who had made a drinking-cup from the skull of a murdered Jew, was greatly astonished when, at the moment that the three men were cast into the furnace, the bodies of the dead boys moved, and, striking him in the face, cried out: "The companion of these three men revives the dead!" (see a Karaite distortion of this episode in Judah Hadasi's "Eshkol ha-Kofer," 45b, at foot; 134a, end of the section). When the boys awakened from death, they rose up and joined in a song of praise to God for the miracle vouchsafed to them; later, they went to the land of Israel, where they married and reared children.

As early as the second century, however, some authorities declared this resurrection of the dead was a prophetic vision: see the opinion regarded by Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed, II:46) This view has been adopted by his followers as the only rational explanation of the Biblical passage.

Vision of the Temple in Jerusalem Edit

Secondtempleplan

The Visionary Ezekiel Temple plan drawn by the 19th century French architect and Bible scholar Charles Chipiez.

According to Walther Zimmerli, the number twenty-five is of cardinal importance in the Temple Vision of Ezekiel in chapters 40-48:

In the construction there appears the figure twenty-five and its multiples: the gate (inside measurement) is twenty-five cubits wide; its length (outside measurement) is fifty cubits; a hundred cubits is the distance from gate to gate; the inner court is a hundred cubits square; so that the total measurement of the temple area, as the measurement in 42:15-20 makes quite explicit, is five hundred square cubits. This system of measurement is still effective in the undoubtedly later description of the allocation of land in chapter 48 in the measurement of the terumah [consecrated area] in the narrower sense (48:20) at twenty-five thousand cubits by twenty-five thousand. But that is not all. The measurement of the steps of the ascent at the level of the sanctuary begins with the figure seven, which is again significance here (40:22, 26). The inner court is reached by eight steps (40:31, 34, 37), while the level of the temple building is reached by a further ten steps (40:49, emended text). Thus the measurement of the steps forming the ascent as a whole again comes to the figure twenty-five. From this point of view one cannot suppress the question whether the figure in the date in 40:1, the twenty-fifth year, is not also to be evaluated in this context of numerical stylization. [3]

Relation to other books in the Hebrew Bible Edit

It is generally agreed that the Book of Ezekiel refers to the Torah (e.g., Ezek. 27; 28:13; 31:8; 36:11, 34; 47:13, etc.) quite often, and shows on a number of occasions that its author is familiar with the writings of Hosea (Ezek. 37:22), Isaiah (Ezek. 8:12; 29:6), and especially with those of Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 24:7, 9; 48:37).

According to religious traditionalists, Ezekiel 14:14 refers to the Daniel described in the Biblical Book of Daniel, fourteen years after Daniel's deportation from Jerusalem, and Ezekiel 28:3 mentions this Daniel again as being 'pre-eminent in wisdom'. In support of this interpretation, traditionalists note that the name Daniel appears in the Book of Ezekiel immediately after the names of Noah and Job, two other major Biblical characters.

Some non-traditionalist commentators disagree, noting that the Hebrew spelling Danel may suggest a person other than the prophet Daniel[4]. "Danel" also appears in ancient Ugaritic texts, that Danel isn't specifically described as a contemporary (indeed, the phrase "Noah, Danel and Job" implies otherwise), and that the Book of Daniel is widely regarded by modern scholars as having been written centuries later.

Relation to the New Testament Edit

It is generally agreed that the closing visions of the Book of Ezekiel are referred to in the book of Revelation, in the Christian New Testament.

(Ezek. 38 = Rev. 20:8; Ezek. 47:1-8 = Rev. 22:1,2).

Other references to this book are also found in the New Testament. (Compare Epistle to the Romans 2:24 with Ezek. 36:22; Rom. 10:5, Galatians 3:12 with Ezek. 20:11; 2 Peter 3:4 with Ezek. 12:22.)


Secular and academic viewsEdit

AuthorshipEdit

Traditionally, the book of Ezekiel is thought to have been written in the 500s BCE during the Babylonian exile of the southern Israelite kingdom, Judah. This date is confirmed to some extent in that the author of the book of Ezekiel appears to use a dating system which was only used in the 500s BCE.[5].

In 1924, Gustav Hoelscher[6] questioned the authorship of Ezekiel, challenging the conventional wisdom that the book was written by one person and expresses one train of thought and style, and arguing instead that 1,103 of the verses in Ezekiel were added at a later date.

Since then, the academic community has been split into a number of different camps over the authorship of the book. W. Zimmerli proposes that Ezekiel's original message was influenced by a later school that added a deeper understanding to the prophecies[citation needed]. Other groups, like the one led by M. Greenberg, still tend to see the majority of the work of the book done by Ezekiel himself[citation needed].

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 ESV Study Bible, "Introduction to Ezekiel," (Crossway, 2007).
  2. Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Rev. Ed. of: Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary.; Includes Index. (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995).
  3. Walther Zimmerli, Ezekiel 2,(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), p. 344].
  4. NIV footnote on Ezekiel 14:14
  5. Joseph Free, Archaeology and Bible History, Scripure Press Publications: Wheaton: IL, 1950, p. 226
  6. Gustav Hoelscher, "Hesekiel: Der Dicter und das Buch," BZAW 39 (1924).

Further readingEdit

Introductions to EzekielEdit

On-line translationsEdit

The Book of Ezekiel's place in the BibleEdit

Preceded by
Jeremiah
Hebrew Bible Followed by
The Twelve Prophets
Preceded by
Lamentations
Protestant Old Testament Followed by
Daniel
Preceded by
Letter of Jeremiah
Roman Catholic Old Testament
Eastern Orthodox Old Testament
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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Book of Ezekiel. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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