Ezekiel
יְחֶזְקֵאל
Prophet and Priest
BornPossibly c. 623 BCE
Jerusalem, Kingdom of Judah
DiedPossibly c. 570 BCE (aged 51–52)
Babylon, Neo-Babylonian Empire
Venerated in
Major shrineEzekiel's Tomb, Iraq
Feast
ControversyBabylonian captivity
Ezekiel's Vision by Raphael, c. 1518 CE

Ezekiel or Ezechiel (/ɪˈzkiəl/; Hebrew: יְחֶזְקֵאל Yəḥezqēʾl [jə.ħɛzˈqeːl]; Greek: Ἰεζεκιήλ Iezekiḗl [i.ɛ.zɛ.kiˈel]) was an Israelite priest. He is the eponymous protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible.

The Abrahamic religions acknowledge Ezekiel as a Hebrew prophet. In Judaism and Christianity, Ezekiel is believed to have already been active as a prophet in the Kingdom of Judah, where he prophesized the destruction of Judah's capital city Jerusalem, but also the restoration of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel in the aftermath. Following the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, which destroyed Solomon's Temple and brought an end to the Jewish–Babylonian War in 587 BCE, Ezekiel continued his activity as a prophet during the Babylonian captivity.

It is believed that he died around 570 BCE; Ezekiel's Tomb is the most important Jewish religious site in Mesopotamia. The name "Ezekiel" means "God is strong" or "God strengthens" in the Hebrew language.[1] In 539 BCE, three decades after the believed date of his death, the Babylonian captivity ended with the Persian conquest of Babylon and the Jews were subsequently repatriated in an event known as the return to Zion, which began after the Persian king Cyrus the Great issued the Edict of Cyrus.

Biblical account

The author of the Book of Ezekiel presents himself as Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, born into a priestly (kohen) lineage.[2] Apart from identifying himself, the author gives a date for the first divine encounter which he presents: "in the thirtieth year".[3] Ezekiel describes his calling to be a prophet by going into great detail about his encounter with God and four "living creatures" with four wheels that stayed beside the creatures.[4]

According to the Bible, Ezekiel and his wife lived during the Babylonian captivity on the banks of the Kebar Canal in Tel Abib near Nippur[a] with other exiles from the Kingdom of Judah.[5] There is no mention of him having any offspring.

Chronology

Ezekiel's "thirtieth year" is given as the fifth year of the exile of Judah's king Jehoiachin by the Babylonians,[6] counting the years after the exile in 598 BCE, that is from 597 to 593 BCE. The last recorded prophecy of Ezekiel dates to April 571 BCE,[7][8] sixteen years after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE. On the basis of dates given in the Book of Ezekiel, his span of prophecies can be calculated to have occurred over the course of about 22 years, starting in 593 BCE.[9]

The Aramaic Targum on Ezekiel 1:1 and the 2nd-century rabbinic work Seder Olam Rabba (chapter 26) both say that Ezekiel's vision came "in the thirtieth year after Josiah was presented with a Book of the Law discovered in the Temple", the latter taking place about the time of Josiah's reforms in 622 BCE,[10] shortly after the call of Jeremiah to prophetic ministry around 626 BCE.[11] If the "thirtieth year" of Ezekiel 1:1 instead refers to Ezekiel's age, then he was born around 622 BCE and was fifty years old when he had his final vision.[8][10]

Extrabiblical accounts

Jewish tradition

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

According to Jewish tradition, Ezekiel did not write his own book, the Book of Ezekiel, but rather his prophecies were collected and written by the Great Assembly.[12]

Ezekiel, like Jeremiah, is said by Talmud[13] and Midrash[14] to have been a descendant of Joshua by his marriage with the proselyte and former prostitute Rahab. Some statements found in rabbinic literature posit that Ezekiel was the son of Jeremiah, who was (also) called "Buzi" because he was despised by the Jews.[15]

Ezekiel was said to be already active as a prophet while in the Land of Israel, and he retained this gift when he was exiled with Jehoiachin and the nobles of the country to Babylon.[16] Josephus claims that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia's armies exiled three thousand people from Judah,[17] after deposing King Jehoiachin in 598 BCE.

One traditional depiction of the cherubim and chariot vision, based on the description by Ezekiel

Rava states in the Babylonian Talmud that although Ezekiel describes the appearance of the throne of God (merkabah), this is not because he had seen more than the prophet Isaiah, but rather because the latter was more accustomed to such visions; for the relation of the two prophets is that of a courtier to a peasant, the latter of whom would always describe a royal court more floridly than the former, to whom such things would be familiar.[18] Ezekiel, like all the other prophets, has beheld only a blurred reflection of the divine majesty, just as a poor mirror reflects objects only imperfectly.[19]

According to the midrash Shir HaShirim Rabbah, it was Ezekiel whom the three pious men, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (also called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) asked for advice as to whether they should resist Nebuchadnezzar's command and choose death by fire rather than worship his idol.

At first God revealed to the prophet that they could not hope for a miraculous rescue; whereupon the prophet was greatly grieved, since these three men constituted the "remnant of Judah". But after they had left the house of the prophet, fully determined to sacrifice their lives to God, Ezekiel received this revelation:

When they went out from before Ezekiel, the Holy One blessed be He revealed Himself and said: 'Ezekiel, what do you think, that I will not stand by them? I will certainly stand by them.' That is what is written: "So said the Lord God: Concerning this too, I will acquiesce to the house of Israel" (Ezekiel 36:37). 'But leave them and do not say anything to them. I will leave them to proceed unsuspecting.'[20]

Christian tradition

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Russian icon of the Prophet Ezekiel holding a scroll with his prophecy and pointing to the "closed gate" (18th century, Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Russia)

Ezekiel is commemorated as a saint in the liturgical calendar of the Eastern Orthodox Church—and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite—on July 21 (for those churches which use the traditional Julian Calendar, July 21 falls on August 5 of the modern Gregorian Calendar).[21] Ezekiel is commemorated on August 28 on the Calendar of Saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and on April 10 in the Roman Martyrology.

Certain Lutheran churches also celebrate his commemoration on July 21.[22]

Saint Bonaventure interpreted Ezekiel's statement about the "closed gate" as a prophecy of the Incarnation: the "gate" signifying the Virgin Mary and the "prince" referring to Jesus. This is one of the readings at Vespers on Great Feasts of the Theotokos in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches.[citation needed] This imagery is also found in the traditional Catholic Christmas hymn "Gaudete" and in a saying by Bonaventure, quoted by Alphonsus Maria de' Liguori: "No one can enter Heaven unless by Mary, as though through a door."[23] The imagery provides the basis for the concept that God gave Mary to humanity as the "Gate of Heaven" (thence the dedication of churches and convents to the Porta Coeli), an idea also laid out in the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) prayer.

John B. Taylor credits the subject with imparting the Biblical understanding of the nature of God.[24]

Islamic tradition

Allah raised the dead at the request of the Prophet Ezekiel. He is standing in a desert with skulls and bones scattered. The prophet is depicted with a halo in the form of flames, typical in Islamic arts.
Iraqi Jews at the tomb of Ezekiel in Al-Kifl in the 1930s

Ezekiel (Arabic: حزقيال; "Ḥazqiyāl"[b]) is recognized as a prophet in Islamic tradition. Although not mentioned by name in the Quran, Muslim scholars, both classical[c] and modern[d] have included Ezekiel in lists of the prophets of Islam.

The Quran mentions a prophet called Dhū al-Kifl[e] (ذو الكفل). Although Dhu al-Kifl's identity is disputed, he is often identified with Ezekiel. Carsten Niebuhr, in his Reisebeschreibung nach Arabian,[25] says he visited Al Kifl in Iraq, midway between Najaf and Hilla and said Kifl was the Arabic form of Ezekiel. He further explained in his book that Ezekiel's Tomb was present in Al Kifl and that the Jews came to it on pilgrimage. The name "Dhu al-Kifl" means "Possessor of the Double" or "Possesor of the Fold" (ذو dhū "possessor of, owner of" and الكفل al-kifl "double, folded"). Some Islamic scholars have likened Ezekiel's mission to the description of Dhu al-Kifl. During the exile, the monarchy and state were annihilated, and political and national life were no longer possible. In the absence of a worldly foundation, it became necessary to build a spiritual one and Ezekiel performed this mission by observing the signs of the time and deducing his doctrines from them. In conformity with the two parts of his book, his personality and his preaching are alike twofold.

Regardless of the identification of Dhu al-Kifl with Ezekiel, Muslims have viewed Ezekiel as a prophet. Ezekiel appears in all collections of Stories of the Prophets.[26] Muslim exegesis further lists Ezekiel's father as Buzi (Budhi) and Ezekiel is given the title ibn al-‘ajūz, denoting "son of the old (man)", as his parents are supposed to have been very old when he was born. A tradition, which resembles that of Hannah and Samuel in the Hebrew Bible, states that Ezekiel's mother prayed to God in old age for the birth of an offspring and was given Ezekiel as a gift from God.[27]

Bibliography

Resting place

Ezekiel's Tomb, Iraq

Ezekiel's Tomb is located in Al Kifl, Iraq, near Babylon. Historically an important Jewish site, the Al-Nukhailah Mosque for Shia Muslims was constructed over it.[28] Due to the Jewish exodus from Iraq in the 1950s, the presence of the Iraqi Jewish community has diminished, although a disused synagogue remains in place at the location.[29] In 2020, work was reportedly underway to transform the synagogue into a mosque.[30][31]

Tomb at Ergani, Turkey

A tomb in the Ergani District of Diyarbakır Province in Turkey is also believed to be the resting place of Ezekiel. It is located 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from the city centre on a hill, where it is revered and visited by local Muslims, called Makam Dağı.[32][33]

In popular culture

For allusions to his prophecies, see Book of Ezekiel § In popular culture.


Ezekiel is portrayed by Darrell Dunham in a 1979 episode[34] of the television series Our Jewish Roots (1978–).[35]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Not to be confused with modern day Tel Aviv, located on the Mediterranean coastline. However, this location's name was influenced by Ezekiel 3:15.
  2. ^ "Ḥazqiyāl" is also romanised as "Ḥizqiyāl", "Ḥizqīl", and "Ḥizkīl"
  3. ^ Ibn Kutayba, Ukasha, Tabari, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Ishaq, Masudi, Kisa'i, Balami, Thalabi and many more have all recognized Ezekiel as a prophet
  4. ^ The greatest depth to the figure is given by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, in his commentary; his commentary's note 2743: "If we accept "Dhul al Kifl" to be not an epithet, but an Arabicised form of "Ezekiel", it fits the context, Ezekiel was a prophet in Israel who was carried away to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar after his second attack on Jerusalem (about BCE 599). His Book is included in the English Bible (Old Testament). He was chained and bound, and put into prison, and for a time he was dumb. He bore all with patience and constancy, and continued to reprove boldly the evils in Israel. In a burning passage he denounces false leaders in words which are eternally true: "Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken ...... etc. (Ezekiel, 34:2–4)."
  5. ^ "Dhū al-Kifl" is also romanised as "Dhul-Kifl", "Zu al-Kifl", and "Zul-Kifl"

References

  1. ^ Joyce, Paul M. (2009). Ezekiel: A Commentary. T&T Clark. pp. 67, 79. ISBN 9780567483614.
  2. ^ Ezekiel 1:3
  3. ^ Ezekiel 1:1–2
  4. ^ Ezekiel 1
  5. ^ Ezekiel 1:1, 3:15.
  6. ^ Ezekiel 1:2
  7. ^ Ezekiel 29:17–19
  8. ^ a b Walther Eichrodt (20 June 2003). Ezekiel: A Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 407. ISBN 978-1-61164-596-5.
  9. ^ Ronald Ernest Clements (1 January 1996). Ezekiel. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-664-25272-4.
  10. ^ a b Terry J. Betts (2005). Ezekiel the Priest: A Custodian of Tôrâ. Peter Lang. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-8204-7425-0.
  11. ^ Longman, T., Jeremiah, Lamentations, Hendrickson Publishers, 2008, p. 6
  12. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 15a
  13. ^ (Meg. 14b)
  14. ^ (Sifri, Num. 78)
  15. ^ Radak – R. David Kimkhi – in his commentary on Ezekiel 1:3, based on Targum Yerushalmi
  16. ^ Josephus, Ant. x. 6, § 3: "while he was still a boy"; comp. Rashi on Sanh. 92b
  17. ^ Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews Book X, 6.3.98
  18. ^ (Ḥag. 13b)
  19. ^ Midrash Lev. Rabbah i. 14, toward the end
  20. ^ "Shir HaShirim Rabbah 7:8:1". www.sefaria.org.
  21. ^ "Lives of the Saints". Oca.org. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  22. ^ Emmaus Evangelical Lutheran Church, Daily Catechesis on the Way, published 15 July 2018, accessed 21 February 2020
  23. ^ Alphonsus Maria de' Liguori, The Glories of Mary, Liguori, Mo.: Liguori Publications, 2000, p. 623. ISBN 0-7648-0664-5.
  24. ^ Taylor, John B. (1976). Ezekiel. Downer's Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press. Series: The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. pp. 39-41. ISBN 0-87784-884-X.
  25. ^ Niebuhr, Carsten (1778). Reisebeschreibung nach Arabian. Vol. 2. Copenhagen: Nicolaus Möller. pp. 264–266.
  26. ^ Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, Story of Ezekiel (Hizqil)
  27. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, G. Vajda, Hizkil
  28. ^ "Jewishencyclopedia.com". Jewishencyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
  29. ^ "Iraq Cleric Slams Plan to Turn Jewish Tomb into Mosque". Thejc.com. 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
  30. ^ Neurink, Judit (2020-02-09). "Jewish shrine of Prophet Ezekiel's Tomb open to visitors in Shiite Iraq". Haaretz. Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  31. ^ bataween (2020-10-20). "Synagogue at Ezekiel's tomb dismantled • Point of No Return". Point of No Return. Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  32. ^ İnanç ve kültür mirasının gözdesi: Hazreti Zülkifl Makamı (Turkish)ilkha. Posted 17 November 2018.
  33. ^ İNANÇ VE KÜLTÜR MİRASININ GÖZDESİ: HAZRETİ ZÜLKİFL MAKAMI (Turkish) GuneydoguGuncel. Posted 18 November 2018.
  34. ^ DRY BONES.mov, retrieved 2022-04-07
  35. ^ Our Jewish Roots (TV Series 1978– ) - IMDb, retrieved 2022-04-07

Further reading