Book of Ezekiel - Introduction
The Flow of the Narrative
I. Moses showed what was possible. Ezekiel showed what was - both the glory of Israel’s mission and its rejection.
II. Yet, as Ezekiel showed what was wrong; he also showed a vision of what was possible.He portrayed how the people abandoned their ways and brought on the destruction of the Temple. Yet, he showed a vision of the future with return and ultimately the restored Temple, perhaps the Third Temple. The last chapters of the Book go into great detail about the Temple, suggesting a keen interest by the prophet in the resumption and re-creation of ritual in the future.
III. Ezekiel demonstrates the basis for the Exile, yet he portrays God’s coming out to the people in exile and returning.
IV. Ezekiel describes the basis for and nature of the punishment and other consequences of Judah’s sinfulness, yet he shows that God does not forget his people and that they are His.
V. Ezekiel has the intricate and challenging task of showing this to the people, experiencing the pain of their rebelliousness, denial, and rejection, to become one with his mission, and ultimately to pave the way for the people’s return to mission and to service in the Land.
VI. We get a look into the possibilities and then waywardness of the people, the leaders, and the kings who served before the Babylonian destruction.
VII. We see the role of false prophets in leading the people astray. We see their techniques and the weaknesses in the people that they preyed upon.
VIII. Toward the end of the book, we see a vision of another day, perhaps the End of Days, perhaps the coming of the Messiah. These verses are typically read by Christians as the coming of Jesus. Jews see another image of a coming Messiah or messianic era. In any event, and worth our attention, we’ll see what that vision involves and its image of what humankind will be then.
The story of the dry bones is one that resonates throughout time. Is it about resurrection, the life of the people after exile, hope after loss, or all of the above - it’s a powerful piece of literature.
IX. There are soul-stirring accounts of God’s relationship with His people.
X. Ezekiel explores and teaches crucially on the responsibility people, as individuals, have in the ethics by which they live and their specific duties to oppose corruption that corrodes God’s ways.
The Book and the Life and Lessons of the Prophet
I. The prophet appears to have lived between roughly 620 BCE and 570 BCE, born in Judea and dying in Babylon.
Ii. Judah has been a vassal state of Assyria but after Josiah it fell under the control of Babylonia. Ezekiel was taken captive there, and soon thereafter Babylonia conquered Judea, and many exiles followed.
III. Ezekiel is mentioned in the Book of Revelation, and stories in the Book, including that of Gog and Magog are considered in the Christian tradition.
IV. There is an emphasis in the Book on the place of ecstasy and mystery and the mystical in the life of the prophet and thus in our tradition.
V. There is a mix of ritual and righteousness in Ezekiel that has had significant influence on the future of Judaism and religion generally. There is frequently a push in one direction or the other. This book argues powerfully for balance.
VI. We see God coming out into the world outside the Land to lead the people and drive them forward.