Ezekiel is the third of the Latter Prophets in the Tanakh
and one of the major prophetic books in the Old Testament, following
Isaiah and Jeremiah. According to the book itself, it records six
visions of the prophet Ezekiel, exiled in Babylon, during the 22 years
593–571 BC, although it is the product of a long and complex
history and does not necessarily preserve the very words of the
The visions, and the book, are structured around three themes: (1)
Israel (chapters 1–24); (2) Judgment on the nations
(chapters 25–32); and (3) Future blessings for
33–48). Its themes include the concepts of the presence of God,
Israel as a divine community, and individual responsibility to
God. Its later influence has included the development of mystical and
apocalyptic traditions in
Second Temple and rabbinic Judaism and
3.1 Life and times of Ezekiel
3.2 Textual history
3.3 Critical history
5 Later interpretation and influence
Second Temple and rabbinic Judaism (c. 515 BC–500 AD)
6 See also
9 External links
Ezekiel has the broad three-fold structure found in a number of the
prophetic books: oracles of woe against the prophet's own people,
followed by oracles against Israel's neighbours, ending in prophecies
of hope and salvation:
Prophecies against Judah and Jerusalem, chapters 1–29
Prophecies against the foreign nations, chapters 25–32
Prophecies of hope and salvation, chapters 33–48
A mid-12th century
Flemish piece of copperwork depicting Ezekiel's
Vision of the Sign "Tau" from
Ezekiel IX:2–7. The item is currently
held by the Walters Museum.
The book opens with a vision of
YHWH (יהוה), one of the Names
of God; moves on to anticipate the destruction of
Jerusalem and the
Temple, explains this as God's punishment, and closes with the promise
of a new beginning and a new Temple.
Ezekiel 1:1–3:27: God approaches
Ezekiel as the
divine warrior, riding in his battle chariot. The chariot is drawn by
four living creatures, each having four faces (those of a man, a lion,
an ox, and an eagle) and four wings. Beside each "living creature" is
a "wheel within a wheel", with "tall and awesome" rims full of eyes
all around. God commissions
Ezekiel as a prophet and as a "watchman"
in Israel: "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites." (2:3)
Jerusalem and Judah and on the nations : God warns
of the certain destruction of
Jerusalem and of the devastation of the
nations that have troubled his people: the Ammonites, Moabites,
Edomites and Philistines, the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, and
Building a new city : The Jewish exile will come to an end, a new
city and new Temple will be built, and the Israelites will be gathered
and blessed as never before.
Some of the highlights include:
The "throne vision", in which
Ezekiel sees God enthroned in the Temple
among the heavenly host ;
The first "temple vision", in which
Ezekiel sees God leave the Temple
because of the abominations practiced there (meaning the worship of
idols other than YHWH, the official God of Judah ;
Images of Israel, in which
Israel is seen as a harlot bride, among
other things ;
The "valley of dry bones", in which the prophet sees the dead of the
Israel rise again ;
The destruction of Gog and Magog, in which
Ezekiel sees Israel's
enemies destroyed and a new age of peace established ;
The final temple vision, in which
Ezekiel sees a new commonwealth
centered around a new temple in Jerusalem, sometimes called the Third
Temple, to which God's
Shekinah (Divine Presence) has returned 
Life and times of Ezekiel
Ezekiel describes itself as the words of the Ezekiel
ben-Buzi, a priest living in exile in the city of
Babylon between 593
and 571 BC. Most scholars today accept the basic authenticity of the
book, but see in it significant additions by a "school" of later
followers of the original prophet. While the book exhibits
considerable unity and probably reflects much of the historic Ezekiel,
it is the product of a long and complex history and does not
necessarily preserve the very words of the prophet.
According to the book that bears his name,
Buzi was born
into a priestly family of
Jerusalem c.623 BC, during the reign of
the reforming king Josiah. Prior to this time, Judah had been a vassal
of the Assyrian empire, but the rapid decline of
Assyria after c. 630
Josiah to assert his independence and institute a religious reform
stressing loyalty to Yahweh, the national God of Israel.
killed in 609 and Judah became a vassal of the new regional power, the
Neo-Babylonian empire. In 597, following a rebellion against Babylon,
Ezekiel was among the large group of Judeans taken into captivity by
the Babylonians. He appears to have spent the rest of his life in
Mesopotamia. A further deportation of Jews from
Jerusalem to Babylon
occurred in 586 when a second unsuccessful rebellion resulted in the
destruction of the city and its Temple and the exile of the remaining
elements of the royal court, including the last scribes and priests.
The various dates given in the book suggest that
Ezekiel was 25 when
he went into exile, 30 when he received his prophetic call, and 52 at
the time of the last vision c.571.
The Jewish scriptures were translated into Greek in the two centuries
immediately before the birth of Christ. The Greek version of these
books is called the Septuagint. The Jewish
Bible in Hebrew is called
Masoretic text (meaning passing down after a Hebrew word Masorah;
for Jewish scholars and rabbis curated and commented on the text). The
Greek (Septuagint) version of
Ezekiel differs considerably from the
Hebrew (Masoretic) version – it is shorter and possibly represents
an early interpretation of the book we have today (according to the
masoretic tradition) – while other ancient manuscript fragments
differ from both.
The first half of the 20th century saw several attempts to deny the
authorship and authenticity of the book, with scholars such as C.C.
Torrey (1863–1956) and
Morton Smith placing it variously in the 3rd
century BC and in the 8th/7th. The pendulum swung back in the post-war
period, with an increasing acceptance of the book's essential unity
and historical placement in the Exile. The most influential modern
scholarly work on Ezekiel, Walther Zimmerli's two-volume commentary,
appeared in German in 1969 and in English in 1979 and 1983. Zimmerli
traces the process by which Ezekiel's oracles were delivered orally
and transformed into a written text by the prophet and his followers
through a process of ongoing re-writing and re-interpretation. He
isolates the oracles and speeches behind the present text, and traces
Ezekiel's interaction with a mass of mythological, legendary and
literary material as he developed his insights into Yahweh's purposes
during the period of destruction and exile.
Holocaust survivors at
Yad Vashem in Jerusalem; the quote
As a priest,
Ezekiel is fundamentally concerned with the Kavod YHWH, a
technical phrase meaning the presence (shekhinah) of
YHWH (i.e., one
of the Names of God) among the people, in the Tabernacle, and in the
Temple, and normally translated as "glory of God". In
phrase describes God mounted on his throne-chariot as he departs from
the Temple in chapters 1–11 and returns to what Marvin Sweeney
describes as a portrayal of "the establishment of the new temple in
YHWH returns to the temple, which then serves as the center
for a new creation with the tribes of
Israel arrayed around it" in
chapters 40–48. The vision in chapters 1:4–28 reflects common
mythological/Biblical themes and the imagery of the Temple: God
appears in a cloud from the north – the north being the usual home
of God/the gods in ancient mythology and Biblical literature – with
four living creatures corresponding to the two cherubim above the
Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant and the two in the Holy of
Holies, the innermost chamber of the Temple; the burning coals of fire
between the creatures perhaps represents the fire on the sacrificial
altar, and the famous "wheel within a wheel" may represent the rings
by which the Levites carried the Ark, or the wheels of the cart.
Ezekiel depicts the destruction of
Jerusalem as a purificatory
sacrifice upon the altar, made necessary by the "abominations" in the
Temple (the presence of idols and the worship of the god Tammuz)
described in chapter 8. The process of purification begins, God
prepares to leave, and a priest lights the sacrificial fire to the
city. Nevertheless, the prophet announces that a small remnant
will remain true to
Yahweh in exile, and will return to the purified
city. The image of the valley of dry bones returning to life in
chapter 37 signifies the restoration of the purified Israel.
Previous prophets had used "Israel" to mean the northern kingdom and
its tribes; when
Ezekiel speaks of
Israel he is addressing the
deported remnant of Judah; at the same time, however, he can use this
term to mean the glorious future destiny of a truly comprehensive
"Israel". In sum, the book describes God's promise that the people
Israel will maintain their covenant with God when they are purified
and receive a "new heart" (another of the book's images) which will
enable them to observe God's commandments and live in the land in a
proper relationship with Yahweh.
The theology of
Ezekiel is notable for its contribution to the
emerging notion of individual responsibility to God – each man would
be held responsible only for his own sins. This is in marked contrast
to the Deuteronomistic writers, who held that the sins of the nation
would be held against all, without regard for an individual's personal
Ezekiel shared many ideas in common with the
Deuteronomists, notably the notion that God works according to the
principle of retributive justice and an ambivalence towards kingship
(although the Deuteronomists reserved their scorn for individual kings
rather than for the office itself). As a priest,
Ezekiel praises the
Zadokites over the Levites (lower level temple functionaries), whom he
largely blames for the destruction and exile. He is clearly connected
Holiness Code and its vision of a future dependent on keeping
the Laws of God and maintaining ritual purity. Notably,
the Babylonian exile not on the people's failure to keep the Law, but
on their worship of gods other than
Yahweh and their injustice: these,
Ezekiel in chapters 8–11, are the reasons God's
his city and his people.
Later interpretation and influence
Second Temple and rabbinic Judaism (c. 515 BC–500 AD)
Ezekiel's imagery provided much of the basis for the Second Temple
mystical tradition in which the visionary ascended through the Seven
Heavens in order to experience the presence of God and understand his
actions and intentions. The book's literary influence can be seen
in the later apocalyptic writings of
Daniel and Zechariah. He is
specifically mentioned by Ben Sirah (a writer of the Hellenistic
period who listed the "great sages" of Israel) and
4 Maccabees (1st
century AD). In the 1st century AD the historian
Josephus said that
the prophet wrote two books: he may have had in mind the Apocryphon of
Ezekiel, a 1st-century BC text that expands on the doctrine of
Ezekiel appears only briefly in the
Dead Sea Scrolls,
but his influence there was profound, most notably in the Temple
Scroll with its temple plans, and the defence of the Zadokite
priesthood in the
Damascus Document. There was apparently some
question concerning the inclusion of
Ezekiel in the canon of
scripture, since it is frequently at odds with the
Torah (the five
"Books of Moses" which are foundational to Judaism).
Ezekiel is referenced more in the
Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation than in any other
New Testament writing. To take just two well-known passages, the
Gog and Magog
Gog and Magog prophecy in Revelation 20:8 refers back to
Ezekiel 38–39, and in Revelation 21–22, as in the closing
visions of Ezekiel, the prophet is transported to a high mountain
where a heavenly messenger measures the symmetrical new Jerusalem,
complete with high walls and twelve gates, the dwelling-place of God
where his people will enjoy a state of perfect well-being. Apart
from Revelation, however, where
Ezekiel is a major source, there is
very little allusion to the prophet in the New Testament; the reasons
for this are unclear, but it can be assumed that not every Christian
or Hellenistic Jewish community in the 1st century would have had a
complete set of (Hebrew) scripture scrolls, and in any case Ezekiel
was under suspicion of encouraging dangerous mystical speculation, as
well as being sometimes obscure, incoherent, and pornographic.
Ezekiel Temple plan drawn by the 19th-century French
Bible scholar Charles Chipiez.
The Vision of The Valley of The Dry Bones by Gustave Doré, 1866
Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones by Maerten de Vos, c. 1600
Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones by Quentin Metsys the
Younger, c. 1589
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Book of Ezekiel.
Apocryphon of Ezekiel
Gog and Magog
Temple in Jerusalem
Bedamayich Hayi ( In Thy Blood Live—
Ezekiel 16:6), an oratory
composed by Issak Tavior
^ a b c Sweeney 1998, p. 88.
^ a b Joyce 2009, p. 16.
^ Petersen 2002, p. 140.
^ McKeating 1993, p. 15.
^ Redditt 2008, p. 148
^ Blenkinsopp (1990)
^ Blenkinsopp 1996, p. 8.
^ Drinkard 1995, pp. 160–61.
^ Blenkinsopp 1996, p. 130.
^ Sweeney 1998, pp. 165–66.
^ Sweeney 1998, p. 91.
^ a b Sweeney 1998, p. 92.
^ Sweeney 1998, pp. 92–93.
^ a b c Sweeney 1998, p. 93.
^ Goldingay 2003, p. 624.
^ Sweeney 1998, pp. 93–94.
^ Kugler & Hartin 2009, p. 261.
^ Block 1997, p. 43.
^ Buitenwerf 2007, p. 165.
^ Buitenwerf 2007, pp. 165 ff.
^ Block 1998, p. 502.
^ Muddiman 2007, p. 137.
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Ezekiel – Mikraot Gedolot Haketer, Menachem Cohen, Bar Ilan
English Translation of the Greek
Septuagint Bible: Ezekiel
Yechezkiel from Chabad.org
BibleGateway (various translations)
Ezekiel public domain audiobook at
LibriVox (various versions)
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