Book Of Ezekiel
From Bible Encyclopedia
The Book of Ezekiel is a book of the Jewish Hebrew Bible as well as the Christian Old Testament, attributed to the prophet Ezekiel (יְחֶזְקֵאל "God will strengthen", Standard Hebrew Yəḥezqel, Tiberian Hebrew Yəḥezqêl) who is regarded by both Jews and Christians as a prophet.
What little personal information is presented in the text about the prophet is discussed at Ezekiel. We do know he was a priest in the temple at Jerusalem, the son of a priest, and that he had a wife prior to being carried off in the Jewish exile of 587 BCE, at age twenty six.
The book of Ezekiel consists mainly of three groups of prophecies. After an account of his call to the prophetical office (Ezekiel 1 - 3:21), Ezekiel
(1) utters words of denunciation against the Jews (Ezekiel 3:22-24), warning them of the certain destruction of Jerusalem, in opposition to the words of the false prophets (Ezekiel 4:1-3). The symbolical acts, by which the extremities to which Jerusalem would be reduced are described in Ezekiel 4-5, show his intimate acquaintance with the Levitical legislation. (See Exodus 22:30; Deuteronomy 14:21; Leviticus 5:2; Leviticus 7:18, Leviticus 7:24; Leviticus 17:15; Leviticus 19:7; Leviticus 22:8, etc.)
(2) Prophecies against various surrounding nations: against the Ammonites (Ezekiel 25:1-7), the Moabites (Ezekiel 25:8-11), the Edomites (Ezekiel 25:12-14), the Philistines (Ezekiel 25:15-17), Tyre and Sidon (Ezekiel 26-28), and against Egypt (Ezekiel 29-32).
(3) Prophecies delivered after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar: the triumphs of Israel and of the kingdom of God on earth (Ezekiel 33-39); Messianic times, and the establishment and prosperity of the kingdom of God (Ezekiel 40; Ezekiel 48).
The closing visions of this book are referred to in the book of Revelation (Ezekiel 38 = Revelation 20:8; Ezekiel 47:1-8 = Revelation 22:1, Revelation 22:2). Other references to this book are also found in the New Testament. (Compare Romans 2:24 with Ezekiel 36:2; Romans 10:5, Galatians 3:12 with Ezekiel 20:11; 2 Peter 3:4 with Ezekiel 12:22.)
It may be noted that Daniel, fourteen years after his deportation from Jerusalem, is mentioned by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:14) along with Noah and Job as distinguished for his righteousness, and some five years later he is spoken of as pre-eminent for his wisdom (Ezekiel 28:3).
Ezekiel's prophecies are characterized by symbolical and allegorical representations, “unfolding a rich series of majestic visions and of colossal symbols.” There are a great many also of “symbolical actions embodying vivid conceptions on the part of the prophet” (Ezekiel 4:1-4; Ezekiel 5:1-4; Ezekiel 12:3-6; Ezekiel 24:3-5; Ezekiel 37:16, etc.) “The mode of representation, in which symbols and allegories occupy a prominent place, gives a dark, mysterious character to the prophecies of Ezekiel. They are obscure and enigmatical. A cloudy mystery overhangs them which it is almost impossible to penetrate. Jerome calls the book 'a labyrinth of the mysteries of God.' It was because of this obscurity that the Jews forbade any one to read it till he had attained the age of thirty.”
Ezekiel is singular in the frequency with which he refers to the Pentateuch (e.g., Ezekiel 27; Ezekiel 28:13; Ezekiel 31:8; Ezekiel 36:11, Ezekiel 36:34; Ezekiel 47:13, etc.). He shows also an acquaintance with the writings of Hosea (Ezekiel 37:22), Isaiah (Ezekiel 8:12; Ezekiel 29:6), and especially with those of Jeremiah, his older contemporary (Jeremiah 24:7, Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 48:37).
With the exile, monarchy and state were annihilated, and a political and national life was no longer possible. In the absence of a worldly foundation it became necessary to build upon a spiritual one. This mission Ezekiel performed by observing the signs of the time and by deducing his doctrines from them. In conformity with the two parts of his book his personality and his preaching are alike twofold. The events of the past must be explained. Although God has permitted his city and Temple to be destroyed, and his people to be led into exile, Ezekiel holds that God is not betraying his people. He asserts that God was compelled to do this because of the sins of the people. Ezekiel feels that there is no reason to despair, for God does not desire the death of the sinner, but his reformation. The Lord exemplifies through action, in that he will remain the God of Israel, and Israel will remain his people. The book explains that once Israel recognizes the sovereignty of the Lord and acts accordingly, God will restore the people, in order that they may fulfill their eternal mission and that He may truly dwell in the midst of them. This, however, can not be accomplished until every individual reforms themselves and makes the will of the Lord their law.
Resurrection of the dead
Ezekiel writes about a resurrection of the dead in chapter 37. As early as the second century, however, some authorities declared this resurrection of the dead was a prophetic vision: an opinion regarded by Maimonides (Guide for the Perplexed, II:46) and his followers as the only rational explanation of the Biblical passage.
There have been a number of debates that have surrounded this book over the centuries. For the most part there has been little question of the authenticity of the book, or its authorship, but rather whether it should be included in the biblical Canon. This debate did not stem from any doubt of its inspired message, but rather the fear that the unlearned may misinterpret it. For a time, the first chapter was not to be read in synagogues and the private reading of the prophecy was not allowed until a person's 30th birthday.
The purpose of the book
The book of Ezekiel is a record of the prophesying of Ezekiel who delivered these oracles and prophecies orally at first. Most people accept that Ezekiel did play a part in the written record of these visions, possibly with the help of scribes or followers. The book, which is split into three sections based on the time they were written, was mostly written by Ezekiel himself. Ezekiel's writing is one of the most sophisticated of all of the Old Testament Prophets. This stems from his training as a priest for the temple, as well as his experience in ministering to the elite members of the nation of Judah.
Ezekiel's writing is made up of three distinct levels: an oracle, a continuation and a closing oracle. The first two layers are related in their writing style and are both attributed to Ezekiel himself. The third level, however, tends to be different from the first two, and as such is attributed to others who were interested in preserving and updating his work.
The book does show many examples of editing done over a period of time by both Ezekiel and others. Most of this work was simply rearranging the order of the oracles to fit the time period to which they applied.
The Book of Ezekiel can be dated due to Ezekiel's recording of events based on the rule of King Jehoiachin (King of Jerusalem). Ezekiel's records makes it possible to accurately date his life and his time of prophecy due to these references to the reigns of kings.
Ezekiel was originally written in the 25 year period between 593 to 571 B.C. The book seems to be written in two different time periods during Ezekiel's 25 years of prophecy. The first section which is aimed at the upper class of Judah was written between from 593 to 586 B.C. The second section, which runs from 586 to 571, deals with his oracles of salvation for the people.
The Book of Ezekiel was written for the Israelites living in exile in Babylon. Up to now their custom was to worship their God, in the temple in Jerusalem. Exile raised important theological questions. How they asked, could they worship YHWH when they were now in a distant land. Was their God still available to them they asked. Ezekiel speaks to this problem. He first explains that their exile is a punishment for disobedience and he offers hope to the exiles once they return to YHWH. The Book of Ezekiel is a message of hope to those desperately in need.
The author points to a day when Judah and Israel would once more be restored to their land. Borrowing heavily from earlier prophets and books, Ezekiel sought to comfort the people with the knowledge of a neverending covenant with YHWH. He preached to them a new understanding in their time of exile. He shows them that God was still in control of the situation. Ezekiel used his own life and his relationship with God as an example.
According to traditionalists, Daniel, fourteen years after his deportation from Jerusalem, is mentioned by Ezekiel (14:14) along with Noah and Job as distinguished for his righteousness, and some five years later he is spoken of as pre-eminent for his wisdom (28:3). However, a "Daniel" also appears in ancient Ugaritic texts, Daniel isn't specifically described as a contemporary (indeed, the phrase "Noah, Daniel and Job" implies otherwise), and the Book of Daniel is widely regarded by modern scholars as having been written centuries later.
Ezekiel refers to the Pentateuch (e.g., Ezekiel 27; Ezekiel 28:13; Ezekiel 31:8; Ezekiel 36:11, Ezekiel 34; Ezekiel 47:13, etc.) quite often, and shows on a number of occasions that he is familiar with the writings of Hosea (Ezekiel 37:22), Isaiah (Ezekiel 8:12; Ezekiel 29:6), and especially with those of Jeremiah, his older contemporary (Jeremiah 24:7, 9; Jeremiah 48:37).