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Ezekiel

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Ezekiel lived in a time of international crisis and conflict. Assyria was the world power in the area under the rule of Tiglath-pilesar III. In 724 B.C Israel raged war upon Assyria, and Israel was no match for Assyria. In 627 B.C the last of the able Assyrian rulers, Ashurbanipal died. Following the death of Ashurbanipal, Babylon under Nebuchadrezzer II wanted independence from Assyria. In 614 B.C the Assyrians under Nineveh surrendered to the rising Babylonians. In 605 B.C the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians and established themselves as the leading power in the area. During all of this warring, Judah allied itself with Babylonia and kept her independence. However, in 597 BCE, after failing to continue their payment of tribute, Babylonia besieged Jerusalem. Nebuchadrezzer II, king on Babylonia, installs a puppet king, Zedekiah, in order to keep the Judeans in line. Nevertheless, Zedekiah rebels also. In 586, Babylonia exiles the most of the rulers and people of Judah to Babylonia, leaving only the poorest, and decimates Jerusalem, including the temple. Since the people believed the "Zion Theology," which said Jerusalem is God's choice of Zion and the monarchy comes from David, exile left the Judeans completely lost. The responses varied among the exiled Judeans, since they assumed that they were safe, after the temple wasn't destroyed during the first destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Israel. One response was lament, a feeling or an expression of grief, over their loss. Another was anger towards the Babylonians. A further response was anger toward neighbors who failed to aid them. Moreover, some Judeans turned to Marduk, chief god of the gods of Babylonia, figuring that he overpowered Yahweh, the god of the Judeans. Finally, the Judeans thought judgment had befallen them for their sins against Yahweh and Yahweh revoked his protection of Jerusalem. The Judeans remained in exile, until 538 BCE.

Ezekiel, son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest, received his call to prophesy at around 593 BCE, along the Chebar River at the village of Tel-abib. "As I [Ezekiel] looked, a stormy wind can out of the north; a great cloud with brightness around it and fire flashing forth continually...He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel." (Cook 1182-1184). Carried captive during the 597 BCE Exile, Ezekiel by some accounts made the "torturous trek to Mesopotamia" (Howe 203), where some of the Hebrews settled along the Canal of Chebar at Tel-abib. In this account, Ezekiel may have returned to Jerusalem after his call and lived there, prophesizing to the inhabitants until the exile. Other accounts state that Ezekiel went to Babylonia where he kept in touch with Judah, thereby addressing both communities in a single entry. Nevertheless, whether in Judah or Babylon, Ezekiel continued to prophesize to the Judeans, before and after the exile of the remaining Hebrews. Before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, Ezekiel prophesized about the total destruction of Jerusalem, brought on by the Judean's guilt.

Ezekiel, at first, was a reluctant prophet. Unlike other prophets he was married, therefore had responsibilities to people other than himself. The symbolic scroll, mentioned in the second and third chapters of Ezekiel. "But you mortal, hear what I say to you; do not be rebellious like the rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you. I [Ezekiel] looked, and a hand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it..." (Cook 1187), was at first bitter but soon turned sweet. This was a metaphor for God's words, which Ezekiel was reluctant to speak, that in time became easier "to swallow." Ezekiel after this point became the watcher of the house of Israel, responsible for their survival (Howe 204). Ezekiel's call meant if the Judeans did not heed Ezekiel's word and repent, God's wrath would overtake them. However, since the chief priesthood of the day, Zadokites, controlled the temple and believed in the "Zion Theology, " Judah was doomed. Ezekiel expressed his message in a variety of methods including signs visions, allegories, denunciations, and legal arguments (Cook 1180). During the years of trying to save Judah from her impending doom, Ezekiel also had a mishap, his wife died. Instead of going into himself, he used the grief to exemplify Yahweh's message. In 586, when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and sent the Judean ruler and people into exile, the theology changed, since it called into question God's promise of Zion. Ezekiel answered the need for hope with a transition from messages of judgment to messages restoration. "Having spoken doom, he looked to the future with great hope, because God's spirit could blow on death to bring life, and because in the restored land 'God was there'" (Howe 204) Ezekiel seems to have a background in the priesthood, by his writings, in which "he has inspired fear, awe, and wonder in readers because he attempts not merely to name, but also to embody, God's sovereignty, holiness, and mystery in words that come close to the limits of expression." (Cook 1180). This makes Ezekiel a multifaceted book, which is hard to read and interpret. However, because of the structure and idea's Ezekiel is thought of as the founder of Judaism.

"A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statues and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God." (Pfisterer Darr 1490)

Written after the exile, for the Hebrews in despair. Ezekiel wrote of Yahweh's restorative plan, rather than the second exodus of an enraged deity, as described in chapter twenty. According to the verses above, Yahweh intends to deal with the unruliness of the Hebrews in a different manner. In verse twenty-six of chapter thirty six, Ezekiel wrote, "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put with in you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Pfisterer Darr 1490). The heart of stone refers to the rebellious, obstinate

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