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Book of Ezekiel Liebermann, Rosanne


The book of Ezekiel is one of the prophetic books (Nevi’im) canonized in the Hebrew Bible. It is a text of 48 chapters associated with the sayings and actions of the priest-prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel is identified as one of the Judean elites exiled by the Neo-Babylonian empire alongside King Jehoiachin of Judah in 597 BCE. The book is set during the period 593-571 BCE and largely reflects the viewpoint of this first group of Judean exiles, who were displaced before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple and additional Judean migrations in 587 BCE. The earliest text of the book of Ezekiel was composed in Hebrew and has been preserved in slightly differing versions: the Masoretic text and fragments from Qumran and Masada in Hebrew, and the Old Greek and an alternative version attested by Papyrus 967 in Greek. The existence of alternative Greek versions of the text indicates that redactional activity on the book of Ezekiel was still taking place at the time of the book’s translation into Greek, probably during the second century BCE. This means that, although many aspects of the book (including its language) reflect its sixth century BCE setting, some parts of it can be attributed to editors from later periods. The text consists of different genres, including narratives about the prophet Ezekiel’s call and sign acts; descriptions of his visions; oracles attributed to the god Yahweh addressed to Judeans in Babylonia and in Jerusalem; and a lengthy law code (chapters 40-48) describing the reconstruction of Yahweh’s temple and the activities that will take place in it. The book of Ezekiel’s primary message is that the Babylonian exile and destruction of Jerusalem are Yahweh’s punishment for the Judeans’ wrongdoing, including their worship of other gods and other cultic transgressions; violent mistreatment of their fellow Judeans; and constantly shifting alliances between foreign nations. Hope for the future is only possible for the Judeans in exile, who have the chance to accept their punishment, continuing to identify as Yahweh’s people and anticipating the day when Yahweh will give them “new hearts and a new spirit” that will allow them (or their descendants) to finally be faithful to him.

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