I. Ezekiel The Man

I. Ezekiel The Man

Early in his writing (1:3) Ezekiel tells us that he was a member of a priestly family and that he was one of the early exiles to the land of Babylon, taken there during the deportation of King Jehoiachin in the year 598 B.C.E. His name may be taken to mean “God is strong” or “God strengthens.” The name Ezekiel is found only once more in the book (24:24), the only instance in which Yahweh refers to him by his name. Otherwise, Yahweh refers to him as “son of man” (93 times), a stereotyped formula which in Hebrew (ben 'adam) is used to refer to a male representative of the human race rather than to a specific male.

All we know of Ezekiel is from his book. We know that he was married and that his wife was suddenly taken from him. Her death became a strange symbol of the demise of the nation and the deep mourning this would bring upon the people (24:15-27). He apparently lived in his own house (3:24; 8:1) and seems to have had freedom to go in and out among the other exiles. In contrast to many of the other prophets, especially Jeremiah, Ezekiel never referred to any personal confrontation or contact with the leaders of his people. The closest he came to this was when, after his awesome vision in ch. 1, he went to the exiles at Tel Abib and sat among them overwhelmed for seven days (3:15). He also met with the elders twice in his own house (8:1; 14:1). However, he gave no indication of any conversation with the exiles during those times. Otherwise, Ezekiel's primary contact was with Yahweh through the divine instruction he was given, either through the spoken word or visions. Unlike Isaiah and Jeremiah, he never recorded any specific conversations with any leaders or even ordinary exiles.

It is no wonder that Ezekiel has been so frequently psychoanalyzed by commentators and others. No other writing prophet displayed his personality idiosyncrasies, such as trances, muteness, and bizarre visions and actions. For example, in at least seven passages it is said that “the hand of the Lord [Yahweh] was upon [him]” (1:3; 3:14, 22; 8:1; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1). While this term may be a traditional formula that described the divine empowering of a prophet to give an oracle, “it is quite clear that for Ezekiel being seized by the hand of Yahweh meant more than simply his reception of the divine message. It was a submission in which among other things the receiving of the divine word took place” (Zimmerli, Ezekiel 1, 118). While one may assume that it involved some kind of trance state or experience, the text gives us no details to confirm this. Certainly one must admit that it appears that his fellow exiles saw him as something of a strange but interesting person (see 33:30-32).