Ezekiel

Ezekiel (; Hebrew: יְחֶזְקֵאל Yĕḥezqēʾl [jəħ.ɛzˈqeːl]; LXX Koinē Greek: Ἰεζεκιὴλ Iezekiḕl [i.ɛ.zɛ.kiˈel]) is the central protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible.

In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Ezekiel is acknowledged as a Hebrew prophet. In Judaism and Christianity, he is also viewed as the 6th-century BCE author of the Book of Ezekiel, which reveals prophecies regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, the restoration to the land of Israel, and what some call the Millennial Temple (or Third Temple) visions.

The author of the Book of Ezekiel presents himself as Ezekiel, the son of Buzzi, born into a priestly (Kohen) lineage.[1] Apart from identifying himself, the author gives a date for the first divine encounter which he presents: "in the thirtieth year".[2] If this is a reference to Ezekiel's age at the time, he was born around 622 BCE, about the time of Josiah's reforms,[3] and shortly after the call of Jeremiah to a prophetic ministry around 626 BCE.[4] Ezekiel's "thirtieth year" is given as five years after the exile of Judah's king Jehoiachin by the Babylonians. The Aramaic Targum on Ezekiel 1:1, however, as well as the 2nd-century rabbinic work Seder Olam Rabba (chapter 26), take a different approach, where they 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".

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 Men of the Great Assembly.[5] Josephus claims that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia's armies exiled three thousand Jews from Judah,[6] after deposing King Jehoiakim in 598 BCE.

According to the Bible, Ezekiel and his wife lived during the Babylonian captivity on the banks of the Chebar River, in Tel Abib,[a] with other exiles from Judah.[7] There is no mention of him having any offspring.

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.[8] For the next five years he incessantly prophesied and acted out the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, which was met with some opposition. However, Ezekiel and his contemporaries like Jeremiah, another prophet who was living in Jerusalem at that time, witnessed the fulfillment of their prophecies with the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. On the hypothesis that the "thirtieth year" of Ezekiel 1:1 refers to Ezekiel's age, Ezekiel was fifty years old when he had his final vision.[3] 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.[9] The last recorded prophecy of Ezekiel dates to April 570 BCE.[10][11]

Ezekiel, like Jeremiah, is said by Talmud[12] and Midrash[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

According to the midrash Canticles Rabbah, it was Ezekiel whom the three pious men, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (also called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Bible) 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: "Thou dost believe indeed that I will abandon them. That shall not happen; but do thou let them carry out their intention according to their pious dictates, and tell them nothing".[18]

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).[19] 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.[20]

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."[21] 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.[22]

Ezekiel is recognized as a prophet in Islamic tradition. Although not mentioned in the Qur'an by the name, Muslim scholars, both classical[b] and modern[c] have included Ezekiel in lists of the prophets of Islam.

The Qur'an mentions a prophet called Zul-Kifl. This prophet is sometimes identified with Ezekiel although Zul-Kifl's identity is disputed. Carsten Niebuhr, in his Reisebeschreibung nach Arabian,[23] 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 Zul-Kifl or more correctly Dhū l-Kifl (ذو الكفل) would mean "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 Dhul-Kifl. When the exile, monarchy, and state were annihilated, a political and national life was 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. Aside from the possible identification of Zul-Kifl with Ezekiel, Muslims have viewed Ezekiel as a prophet, regardless of his identification with Zul-Kifl.

Ezekiel appears in all Muslim collections of Stories of the Prophets.[24] Muslim exegesis further lists Ezekiel's father as Buzi (Budhi) and Ezekiel is given the title ibn al-adjus, 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.[25]

The tomb of Ezekiel is a structure located in modern-day south Iraq near Kefil, believed to be the final resting place of Ezekiel.[26] It has been a place of pilgrimage to both Muslims and Jews alike. After the Jewish exodus from Iraq, Jewish activity in the tomb ceased, although a disused synagogue remains in place.[27]

A tomb in the Ergani province of Diyarbakir, Turkey is also believed to be the resting place of prophet Ezekiel. It is located 5 km from the city centre on a hill, revered and visited by the local Muslims, called Makam Dağı.[28][29]