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Chebar

Chebar

Chebar, in the Bible, river of Mesopotamia, by which captive Jews were settled.
The Book of Ezekiel is a book of the Hebrew Bible (of the Books of the Bible) named after the prophet Ezekiel.

Historical background

The Book of Ezekiel was written for the captives of the tribe of Judah living in exile in Babylon following the Siege of Jerusalem of 597 BC. Up until that exile their custom had been to worship their God in the Temple in Jerusalem. Exile raised important theological questions. How, the Judeans asked, could they worship their God when they were now in a distant land? Was their God still available to them? Ezekiel speaks to this problem. He first explains that the Judean exile is a punishment for disobedience and he then offers hope to the exiles, suggesting that the exile will be reversed once they return to God.

Unlike their ancestors, who were enslaved and socially marginalized while in exile in Egypt, the Jews of Ezekiel's time were able to become part of the society they found themselves in. The Exiles were told by Jeremiah not to worship the foreign gods, but Jeremiah did tell them that they could become part of the Babylonian culture. They did this well, often being called upon by the Babylonians to complete projects using their skills as artisans. Unlike other enemies, the Babylonians allowed the Jewish people to settle in small groups. While keeping their religious and national identities, many Jewish people did start to settle into their new environment. From building homes to opening businesses, the Jews seemed to settle into their exile land for the long haul.

This growing comfort in Babylon helps to explain why so many Jewish people decided not to return to their land. Many people would have been born in exile and would know nothing of their old land, so when the opportunity came for them to reclaim the land that was taken from them, many decided not to leave the Babylonian land they knew. This large group of people who decided to stay are known to be the oldest of the Jewish diaspora communities along with the Jews of Persia.

Biography

The Book of Ezekiel gives little detail about Ezekiel's life. In it, he is mentioned only twice by name: 1:3 and 24:24. Ezekiel is a priest, the son of Buzi (my contempt), and his name means "God will strengthen". He was one of the Israelite exiles, who settled at a place called Tel-abib, on the banks of the Chebar, "in the land of the Chaldeans." The place is thus not identical to the modern city Tel Aviv, which is, however, named after it. He was probably carried away captive with Jehoiachin (1:2; 2 Kings 24:14-16) about 597 BC.

Content

Summary

The first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel is a description of Ezekiel's visionary encounter with the Lord who appears to him upon a chariot composed of 4 living creatures each having 4 faces and calf's feet. This agglomeration is carried about by some unusual beryl colored wheels which are also described in considerable detail. Following this introduction, Ezekiel contains three distinct sections.

  1. Judgment on Israel - Ezekiel makes a series of denunciations against his fellow Judeans (3:22-24), warning them of the certain destruction of Jerusalem, in opposition to the words of the false prophets (4:1-3). The symbolic acts, by which the extremities to which Jerusalem would be reduced are described in Chapters 4 and 5, show his intimate acquaintance with the Levitical legislation. (See, for example, Exodus 22:30; Deuteronomy 14:21; Leviticus 5:2; 7:18,24; 17:15; 19:7; 22:8)
  2. Prophecies against various neighboring nations: against the Ammonites (Ezek. 25:1-7), the Moabites (25:8-11), the Edomites (25:12-14), the Philistines (25:15-17), Tyre and Sidon (26-28), and against Egypt (29-32).
  3. Prophecies delivered after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II: the triumphs of Israel and of the kingdom of God on earth (Ezek. 33-39); Messianic times, and the establishment and prosperity of the kingdom of God (40-48).

Interpretation

According to Walther Zimmerli, the number twenty-five is of cardinal importance in Ezekiel's Temple Vision (in the Bible, Ezekiel chapters 40-48).

In the construction there appears the figure twenty-five and its multiples: the gate (inside measurement) is twenty-five cubits wide; its length (outside measurement) is fifty cubits; a hundred cubits is the distance from gate to gate; the inner court is a hundred cubits square; so that the total measurement of the temple area, as the measurement in 42:15-20 makes quite explicit, is five hundred square cubits. This system of measurement is still effective in the undoubtedly later description of the allocation of land in chapter 48 in the measurement of the terumah [consecrated area] in the narrower sense (48:20) at twenty-five thousand cubits by twenty-five thousand. But that is not all. The measurement of the steps of the ascent at the level of the sanctuary begins with the figure seven, which is again significance here (40:22, 26). The inner court is reached by eight steps (40:31, 34, 37), while the level of the temple building is reached by a further ten steps (40:49, emended text). Thus the measurement of the steps forming the ascent as a whole again comes to the figure twenty-five. From this point of view one cannot suppress the question whether the figure in the date in 40:1, the twenty-fifth year, is not also to be evaluated in this context of numerical stylization. [Source: Ezekiel 2 by Walther Zimmerli (Philadelphia:Fortress Press, 1983 English Translation), p. 344].

Connections with other books in the Bible

It is generally agreed that the closing visions of the Book of Ezekiel are referred to in the book of Revelation.

(Ezek. 38 = Rev. 20:8; Ezek. 47:1-8 = Rev. 22:1,2). Other references to this book are also found in the New Testament. (Compare Epistle to the Romans 2:24 with Ezek. 36:22; Rom. 10:5, Galatians 3:12 with Ezek. 20:11; 2 Peter 3:4 with Ezek. 12:22)

It is also generally agreed that the Book of Ezekiel refers to the Pentateuch (e.g., Ezek. 27; 28:13; 31:8; 36:11, 34; 47:13, etc.) quite often, and shows on a number of occasions that its author is familiar with the writings of Hosea (Ezek. 37:22), Isaiah (Ezek. 8:12; 29:6), and especially with those of Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 24:7, 9; 48:37).

According to traditionalists, Ezekiel 14:14 refers to the Daniel described in the Biblical Book of Daniel, fourteen years after Daniel's deportation from Jerusalem, and Ezekiel 28:3 mentions this Daniel again as being 'pre-eminent in wisdom'. In support of this interpretation, traditionalists note that the name Daniel appears in the Book of Ezekiel immediately after the names of Noah and Job, two other major Biblical characters.

Some non-traditionalist commentators disagree, noting that a "Daniel" also appears in ancient Ugaritic texts, that Daniel isn't specifically described as a contemporary (indeed, the phrase "Noah, Daniel and Job" implies otherwise), and that the Book of Daniel is widely regarded by modern scholars as having been written centuries later.

Important dates

The Book of Ezekiel can be dated based on the links it records between the rule of King Jehoiachin (King of Jerusalem) and the other events that the book describes.

According to this system, Ezekiel was originally written in the 22 year period between 593 to 571 BC. The following table lists events in Ezekiel with their dates.

Dates of Book of Ezekiel
Event Verse Reference Date
Chariot Vision (Merkabah) 1:1-3 June 6, 593 BC.
Call to be a Watchman 3:16 June 13, 593
Temple Vision 8:1 August 23, 592
Discourse with Elders 20:1 July 19, 591
Second Siege of Jerusalem 24:1 December 22, 589
Judgment on Tyre 26:1 March 30, 587
Judgment on Egypt 29:1 December 13, 588
Judgment on Egypt 29:17 March 3, 571
Judgment on Egypt 30:20 April 5, 587
Judgment on Egypt 31:1 May 28, 587
Lament over Pharaoh 32:1 February 18, 586
Lament over Egypt 32:17 April 2, 586
Fall of Jerusalem 33:21 December 13, 586
New Temple Vision 40:1 September 26, 573

On the fifth day of the fourth month in the fifth year of his exile (5 Tammuz, 593 BC), he said he beheld on the banks of the Chebar the glory of God, who consecrated him as a prophet. The latest date in his book is the first day of the first month in the twenty-seventh year of his exile (1 Nisan, 571 BC); consequently, his prophecies extended over twenty-two years.

The elders of the exiles repeatedly visited him to obtain a divine oracle (chapters 8, 14, 20). He exerted no permanent influence upon his contemporaries, however, whom he repeatedly calls the "rebellious house" (2:5, 6, 8; 3:9, 26, 27; and elsewhere), complaining that although they flock in great numbers to hear him they regard his discourse as a sort of aesthetic amusement, and fail to act in accordance with his words (33:30-33). If the enigmatical date, "the thirtieth year" (1:1), be understood to apply to the age of the prophet, Ezekiel was born exactly at the time of the reform in the ritual introduced by Josiah. Concerning his death nothing is known.

He had a house in the place of his exile, Tel-Abib, where he lost his wife, in the ninth year of his exile, by some sudden and unforeseen stroke (Ezek. 8:1; 24:18).

His ministry extended over twenty-six years 597 - 571 BC (29:17), during part of which he was contemporary with Jeremiah, and probably also with Obadiah. According to tradition, he would also have been contemporary with Daniel (however, Daniel is regarded by some as being written much later, with Ezekiel's references to "Daniel" being seen as references to an ancient Ugaritic hero of that name, not a contemporary). The time and manner of his death are unknown. His reputed tomb is pointed out in the neighbourhood of Hilla or ancient Babylon, at a place called Al Kifl.

After being led away by the Babylonians on May 29, 597, Ezekiel, along with the other Israelites, was resettled in Babylon. Ezekiel himself lived in his own home in exile at Tel-abib near Chebar canal, which was near Nippur in Babylonia.

Secular and academic views

Authorship

In 1924, Gustav Hoelscher questioned the authorship of Ezekiel, challenging the conventional wisdom that the book was written by one person and expresses one train of thought and style, and arguing instead that 1,103 of the verses in Ezekiel were added at a later date.

Since then, the academic community has been split into a number of different camps over the authorship of the book. W. Zimmerli proposes that Ezekiel's original message was influenced by a later school that added a deeper understanding to the prophecies. Other groups, like the one led by M. Greenberg, still tend to see the majority of the work of the book done by Ezekiel himself.

Traditionally, the book of Ezekiel is thought to have been written in the 500s BC during the Babylonian exile of the southern Israelite kingdom, Judah. This date is confirmed to some extent in that the author of the book of Ezekiel appears to use a dating system which was only used in the 500s BCE..

Contemporary perspectives

Some unsourced original commentary that has been unverified for at least 18 months has recently been removed here.

Epilepsy

Some scholars have suggested that the person described by the Book of Ezekiel may have suffered from epilepsy. Specifically, it is claimed that Ezekiel himself may have suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, which has several characteristic symptoms that are apparent from his writing. These symptoms include hypergraphia, hyperreligiosity, fainting spells, mutism and often collectively ascribed to a condition known as Geschwind syndrome. See list of people with epilepsy.

See also

Notes

References

  • Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.
  • LaSor, William Sanford et al. Old Testament Survey: the Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1996.
  • Allen, Leslie C. Word Biblical Commentary Volume 28: Ezekiel 1-20. Word Books Publisher: Dallas TX, 1990.
  • Allen, Leslie C. Word Biblical Commentary Volume 29: Ezekiel 20-48. Word Books Publisher: Dallas TX, 1990.
  • George R. Berry, "The Authorship of Ezekiel 40-48, Journal of Biblical Literature 341/4 (1915), pp. 17-40.
  • Block, Daniel. NICOT Commentary: The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1997.
  • Block, Daniel. NICOT Commentary: The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25-48. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1998.
  • Greenberg, Moshe. Ezekiel 1-20: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible, Vol 22. New York: Doubleday, 1983.
  • Greenberg, Moshe. Ezekiel 21-37: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible, Vol 22A. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
  • Zimmerli, Walther. Ezekiel 1: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Chapters 1-24. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979.
  • Zimmerli, Walther. Ezekiel 2: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Chapters 25-48. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, c1983.

External links

On-line translations

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