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Book of Ezekiel

book of ezekiel, book of ezekiel in the bible
The Book of Ezekiel is the third of the Major Prophets in the Tanakh and one of the major prophetic books in the Old Testament, following Isaiah and Jeremiah1 According to the book itself, it records seven visions of the prophet Ezekiel, exiled in Babylon, during the 22 years 593-571 BCE, although it is the product of a long and complex history and does not necessarily preserve the very words of the prophet2 The visions, and the book, are structured around three themes: 1 Judgment on Israel chapters 1–24; 2 Judgment on the nations chapters 25–32; and 3 Future blessings for Israel chapters 33–483 Its themes include the concepts of the presence of God, purity, 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 Christianity


  • 1 Structure
  • 2 Summary
  • 3 Composition
    • 31 Life and times of Ezekiel
    • 32 Textual history
    • 33 Critical history
  • 4 Themes
  • 5 Later interpretation and influence
    • 51 Second Temple and rabbinic Judaism c 515 BCE–500 CE
    • 52 Christianity
  • 6 See also
  • 7 Citations
  • 8 Bibliography
    • 81 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 1–24
  • Prophecies against the foreign nations, chapters 25–32
  • Prophecies of hope and salvation, chapters 33–484


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 Temple5

  1. Inaugural vision 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
  2. Judgment on Jerusalem and Judah Ezekiel 4:1–24:27 and on the nations Ezekiel 25:1–32:32: 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 Egypt
  3. Building a new city Ezekiel 33:1–48:35: 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:6

  • The "throne vision", in which Ezekiel sees God enthroned in the Temple among the heavenly host Ezekiel 1:4–28;
  • 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 Ezekiel 8:1–16;
  • Images of Israel, in which Israel is seen as a harlot bride, among other things Ezekiel 15–19;
  • The "valley of dry bones", in which the prophet sees the dead of the house of Israel rise again Ezekiel 37:1–14;
  • The destruction of Gog and Magog, in which Ezekiel sees Israel's enemies destroyed and a new age of peace established Ezekiel 38–39;
  • 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 Ezekiel 40–48


Life and times of Ezekieledit

The Book of 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 BCE 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 prophet7 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 prophet2

According to the book that bears his name, Ezekiel ben-Buzi was born into a priestly family of Jerusalem c623 BCE, 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 c630 led Josiah to assert his independence and institute a religious reform stressing loyalty to Yahweh, the national God of Israel Josiah was 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 c5718

Textual historyedit

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 the 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 both9

Critical historyedit

The first half of the 20th century saw several attempts to deny the authorship and authenticity of the book, with scholars such as CC Torrey 1863–1956 and Morton Smith placing it variously in the 3rd century BCE 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 exile10


Monument to Holocaust survivors at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem; the quote is Ezekiel 37:14

As a priest, Ezekiel is fundamentally concerned with the Kavod YHWH, a technical phrase meaning the presence shekhinah of YHWH ie, one of the Names of God among the people, in the Tabernacle, and in the Temple, and normally translated as "glory of God"11 In Ezekiel the 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 Zion as 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 40–4812 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 cart12

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 813 The process of purification begins, God prepares to leave, and a priest lights the sacrificial fire to the city14 Nevertheless, the prophet announces that a small remnant will remain true to Yahweh in exile, and will return to the purified city14 The image of the valley of dry bones returning to life in chapter 37 signifies the restoration of the purified Israel14

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"15 In sum, the book describes God's promise that the people of 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 Yahweh16

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 guilt Nonetheless, 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 with the Holiness Code and its vision of a future dependent on keeping the Laws of God and maintaining ritual purity Notably, Ezekiel blames 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, says Ezekiel in chapters 8–11, are the reasons God's Shekhinah left his city and his people17

Later interpretation and influenceedit

Second Temple and rabbinic Judaism c 515 BCE–500 CEedit

See also: Merkabah mysticism

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 intentions1 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 BCE text that expands on the doctrine of resurrection 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 Document18 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 Judaism1


Ezekiel is referenced more in the Book of Revelation than in any other New Testament writing19 To take just two well-known passages, the famous Gog and Magog prophecy in Revelation 20:8 refers back to Ezekiel 38–39,20 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-being21 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 pornographic22

See alsoedit

  • Apocryphon of Ezekiel
  • Babylonian captivity
  • Biblical numerology
  • Gog and Magog
  • Temple in Jerusalem
  • Bedamayich Hayi In Thy Blood Live—Ezekiel 16:6, an oratory composed by Issak Tavior


  1. ^ a b c Sweeney 1998, p 88
  2. ^ a b Joyce 2009, p 16
  3. ^ Petersen 2002, p 140
  4. ^ McKeating 1993, p 15
  5. ^ Redditt 2008, p 148
  6. ^ Blenkinsopp 1990
  7. ^ Blenkinsopp 1996, p 8
  8. ^ Drinkard 1995, pp 160–161
  9. ^ Blenkinsopp 1996, p 130
  10. ^ Sweeney 1998, pp 165–166
  11. ^ Sweeney 1998, pp 91–91
  12. ^ a b Sweeney 1998, p 92
  13. ^ Sweeney 1998, pp 92–93
  14. ^ a b c Sweeney 1998, p 93
  15. ^ Goldingay 2003, p 624
  16. ^ Sweeney 1998, pp 93–94
  17. ^ Kugler & Hartin 2009, pp 261–261
  18. ^ Block 1997, p 43
  19. ^ Buitenwerf 2007, p 165
  20. ^ Buitenwerf 2007, p 165 ff
  21. ^ Block 1998, p 502
  22. ^ Muddiman 2007, p 137


  • Bandstra, Barry L 2004 Reading the Old Testament: an introduction to the Hebrew Bible Wadsworth ISBN 9780495391050 
  • Blenkinsopp, Joseph 1996 A history of prophecy in Israel Westminster John Knox Press ISBN 9780664256395 
  • Blenkinsopp, Joseph 1990 Ezekiel Westminster John Knox ISBN 9780664237554 
  • Block, Daniel I 1997 The Book of Ezekiel: chapters 1–24, Volume 1 Eerdmans ISBN 9780802825353 
  • Block, Daniel I 1998 The Book of Ezekiel: chapters 25–48, Volume 2 Eerdmans ISBN 9780802825360 
  • Brueggemann, Walter 2002 Reverberations of faith: a theological handbook of Old Testament themes Westminster John Knox ISBN 9780664222314 
  • Buitenfwerf, Riuewerd 2007 "The Gog and Magog Tradition in Ezekiel 20:8" In De Jonge, HJ; Tromp, Johannes The Book of Ezekiel and Its Influence Ashgate Publishing 
  • Bullock, C Hassell 1986 An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books Moody Press ISBN 9781575674360 
  • Clements, Ronald E 1996 Ezekiel Westminster John Knox Press ISBN 9780664252724 
  • Drinkard, Joel F Jr 1996-09-01 "Ezekiel" The Prophets ISBN 9780865545090 
  • Eichrodt, Walther E 1996 Ezekiel Westminster John Knox Press ISBN 9780664227661 
  • Goldingay, John A 2003 "Ezekiel" In James D G Dunn, John William Rogerson Eerdmans Bible Commentary Eerdmans ISBN 9780802837110 
  • Henning III, Emil Heller 2012 Ezekiel's Temple: A Scriptural Framework Illustrating the Covenant of Grace Xulon ISBN 9781626975132 
  • Joyce, Paul M 2009 Ezekiel: A Commentary Continuum ISBN 9780567483614 
  • Kugler, Robert; Hartin, Patrick 2009 The Old Testament between theology and history: a critical survey Eerdmans ISBN 9780802846365 
  • Levin, Christoph L 2005 The Old testament: a brief introduction Princeton University Press ISBN 9780691113944 
  • McKeating, Henry 1993 Ezekiel Continuum ISBN 9781850754282 
  • Muddiman, John 2007 "The So-Called Bridal Bath" In De Jonge, HJ; Tromp, Johannes The Book of Ezekiel and Its Influence Ashgate Publishing 
  • Petersen, David L 2002 The prophetic literature: an introduction John Knox Press ISBN 9780664254537 
  • Redditt, Paul L 2008 Introduction to the Prophets Eerdmans ISBN 9780802828965 
  • Sweeney, Marvin A 1998 "The Latter Prophets" In Steven L McKenzie, Matt Patrick Graham The Hebrew Bible today: an introduction to critical issues Westminster John Knox Press ISBN 9780664256524 

External linksedit

  • Ezekiel - Mikraot Gedolot Haketer - online edition, Menachem Cohen, Bar Ilan University Hebrew
Online Translations
  • English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible: Ezekiel
  • Yechezkiel from Chabadorg
  • BibleGateway Various translations
  • Bible: Ezekiel public domain audiobook at LibriVox Various versions
Book of Ezekiel Major prophets
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