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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Ezekiel - Character

THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL presents the words of Ezekiel son of Buzi, a prophet and a priest, and one of the Jerusalemites exiled to Babylonia with King Jehoiachin in 597 BCE by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24.8–17 ). Like his older contemporary Jeremiah, Ezekiel lived through the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 and the early years of the Babylonian exile. He presents some of the most theologically challenging and dynamic material among the prophets of the Bible, and some of the most difficult and bizarre passages. His literary style is intricate, with striking imagery and extended metaphors. Many of his oracles are in prose, unlike the other classical prophets. Some of his visions border on the apocalyptic, and may be early examples of this type of literature. He wrestles with the problems posed by the tragedies of Jerusalem's destruction and the Babylonian exile: Why did God allow the Temple and Jerusalem to be destroyed? Why did God allow the people of Israel to be carried away into exile? What future is there for Israel?

The book of Ezekiel, like other biblical writings, attempts to justify the tragedy of the Babylonian exile by arguing that it was a divine punishment for the people's sin and by pointing to God's mercy in the future restoration. It contends that God intends to uphold the covenant with Israel for the sake of the sanctity of the divine name by restoring a remnant of the people to the land of Israel and placing a new Temple at its center. This new Temple is envisioned in detail at the end of the book. Indeed, the most famous chapter in Ezekiel ( 37 ), the prophecy concerning the valley of the dry bones, is part of that vision of restoration.

Ezekiel is both a priest and a prophet, and his writings are best understood as a combination of these aspects of his identity. As a priest of the House of Zadok (Zadok was appointed by Solomon as the high priest of the Jerusalem Temple [1 Kings 2.35 ]), he calls upon his own background to make his case. He often speaks in terms of purity and impurity, and alludes to the Priestly information in Leviticus. It is no accident that his book culminates with an extended description of the new Temple of the future restoration. Ezekiel also functions as a visionary prophet or oracle giver, much like Moses, who isolatedhimself to speak directly with God in the Tent of Meeting during the period of Israel's wandering in the wilderness (Exod. 33.7–11; 34.29–35; Num. 7.89 ). Ezekiel is keenly aware of his role as a prophet—as a watchman for Israel whose task is to warn of impending danger. His religious experiences are prophetic, as are his visions, symbolic actions, and oracles. They draw heavily upon Temple imagery and priestly practice, but they are couched in prophetic forms of discourse. His vision of the divine throne chariot or Presence Of God in ch 1 appears to him in Babylonia, but it is based upon the features of the Ark of the Covenant that was housed in the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple. His portrayal of Jerusalem's destruction in ch 9 employs elements of priestly sacrifice at the altar, but it is the Temple itself that is destroyed. His vision of the new Temple in Jerusalem resembles the earlier wilderness tabernacle, Solomon's Temple, and the Second Temple, but it differs from all of them.

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