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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel - Introduction

Ezekiel, priest and prophet, began his ministry in the last years of the Kingdom of Judah and ended it during the Babylonian captivity following upon the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. His ministry bridges the greatest catastrophe and transformation the religion of Israel ever experienced: the transition from a religion identified with a land and a temple, with its sacrifices, to a religion identified with a community of people, thus leading ultimately to the full development of the synagogue where the study of the Law is paramount, the essential Judaism of today.

Beginning with the inaugural vision, dated 593 B.C.E. ( 1.2 ), and ending with the last securely dated oracle, 571 B.C.E. ( 29.17 ), Ezekiel contains the most complete chronology of any prophetic book. The dates do not follow in order, however, and only the oracle immediately following a given date can be attached to it with certainty. The dating of the oracles according to contemporary chronology in the annotations is an approximation, correlating the lunar calendar followed by the ancients with the modern solar calendar.

Ezekiel, the most unusual among a unique class of individuals, the prophets of Israel, dramatized his prophecies by bizarre actions that some interpreters see as simply literary devices to emphasize his message, but which others see as reflecting pathological states. Further, though he seems to be with the captives in Babylon ( 1.1–3; 3.11 , etc.) he sometimes addresses his message to the Palestinian Jews ( 11.1–3 ), so that interpreters are divided between postulating a double ministry (first to the people in Palestine before the captivity and then to the captives in Babylonia after the destruction of Jerusalem) and holding a single ministry, but attributing the gift of clairvoyance to Ezekiel by which he was in contact with people and events in Palestine.

The key to Ezekiel's message is a very exalted idea of God; a God beyond human comprehension ( 1.4–28 ); a God whose hand guides the destinies of nations (chs. 25–32 ); a God who, for the sake of God's “holy name,” forgives transgression and puts a new “spirit” within the people ( 36.22–26 ). Earlier prophets saw in human existence a cause and effect chain with this sequence: sin—punishment—repentance (condition)—redemption (at a price). Ezekiel sees the sequence as: sin—punishment—redemption (gratuitous)—repentance (free). Thus, with redemption once assured, a person is free to choose repentance without the coercion of punishment; Ezekiel's message, therefore, stresses also freedom of choice and human responsibility (ch. 18 ).

The MT account of Ezekiel is longer and more repetitious than that of the Sept., which is more concise and more strongly supported by the other versions, suggesting that the MT has undergone disturbance and dislocation in many passages. Moreover, chs. 40–48 are regarded by many scholars as an addition from a later hand and a later time (see 40.1–48.35 n. ).

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