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Ezekiel

08.16.2010

We begin a much needed break from Jeremiah to start with Ezekiel, the one major prophet we haven’t hit yet. 

Ezekiel was with the first crew of exiles from Judah, who left after the fall of Jehoiachin and the first seige of Jerusalem by Ned.  So while Jeremiah is continuing the good fight back in Judah, young Ezekiel (25 at the time) treks off with the exiles to begin life in Babylon.  Since Ezekiel was much younger than Jeremiah and began his preaching later, it is likely that he knew of Jeremiah (but unlikely that Jeremiah knew of Ezekiel).

One interesting factoid provided by the ESV Study Bible is that Ezekiel is believed to have begun hearing God’s word at age 30 and prophesying for 20 years until he was 50.  This is interesting because Ezekiel was born into a priestly lineage, and the prescribed term of service for a priest (as laid out in Numbers 4) is ages 30 to 50.  So we can see God using Ezekiel as a de facto priest for His people in exile.

Contrary to what I assumed about where most of the OT (even the Bible) takes place, Ezekiel did not preach in the Promised Land.  He stayed with the exiles and settled in the south of modern-day Iraq between Baghdad and Basra. 

Ezekiel the book is believed to have been written and compiled by Ezekiel the man (who apparently did not have a counterpart to Baruch who could help him).  Although they are arranged chronologically, the stories in Ezekiel are just that, independent stories.  It’s thus more of an anthology of Ezekiel’s visions and preaching rather than a single document with a dramatic arc.

Nonetheless, there are recurring themes.  Notably, Ezekiel’s main goal is to emphasize God’s glory to the exiles.  They may have been disillusioned in the God that would let their nation be captured and sent into exile in service to a barbaric pagan.  Additionally, they would be immersed in the Babylonian culture, with many foreign wonders and gizmos; Ezekiel wanted to make sure that this did not draw their focus away from who God is and what He is capable of.

Ezekiel also marks the transition within the prophetic tradition from trying to reach God’s people with threats of punishment to trying to reach them with promises of redemption.  God followed through on His threats and destroyed Israel as a political unit.  God, though Ezekiel, is now drawing them through this dark period with promises of the light to come.

One last tidbit about Ezekiel (hereafter, Zeke) that I may touch on as we go through the book is that much of his preaching is done through the form of symbolic acts, or street theater.  This is not an approach I have generally responded to very well in real life, and I tend to find people who craft their behavior to be symbolic of something deep to be pretentious and loony.  We’ll see if I can get past that hang-up and see how God used Zeke in this way.

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