II. Historical Setting
It was Ezekiel's lot to live in a period that straddled both the preexilic period and the Exile. The powerful Assyrian Empire which had destroyed and conquered the northern kingdom in 722 B.C.E., had fallen victim to the combined power of Babylon and Media, which destroyed the Assyrian capital, Nineveh (612 B.C.E.). Three years later Egypt joined Assyria in battle against the Neo-Babylonian Empire in the Plain of Megiddo as Egypt tried to regain control over Palestine and Syria. King Josiah of Judah seems to have been an ally of Babylon and joined the battle against Egypt but unfortunately lost his life (see 2Ki 23:29-30; 2Ch 35:20-24).
Josiah's son, Jehoahaz (Shallum), ruled Judah for three months, after which the Egyptians installed another son of Josiah, Jehoiakim, as vassalking in Jerusalem (609 B.C.E.). The Babylonians defeated the Egyptians in the famous battle at Carchemish (see Jer 46:2) in 605 B.C.E. Later that year Jehoiakim revolted against Egypt and gave his political loyalty to Babylon and its new king. Some time later when Jehoiakim again shifted his loyalty, this time to the Egyptians, Nebuchadnezzar sent his armies to Jerusalem at which time Jehoiakim was killed (597 B.C.E.). With the capture of Jerusalem, the Babylonians took Jehoiachin, who had succeeded his father Jehoiakim, into Babylonian exile. Nebuchadnezzar then put the youngest son of Josiah, Zedekiah, in power as puppet-king over Judah.
It was not long, however, before pro-Egyptians within the government convinced Zedekiah to revolt against the Babylonians. This revolt was put down by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar after a two-year siege of Jerusalem. This resulted in its destruction and fall in 587 B.C.E. As part of the conquest of Jerusalem, the great temple built by Solomon was burned to the ground, destroying Judaism's primary focus of nationalism and religion. A second deportation took place (see Jer 52) at that time, with a final deportation in 582 B.C.E. ending a sad chapter in the history of Judaism.
Ezekiel's call came in 593 B.C.E., five years after his deportation to Babylon and six years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. The latest date in the book is 571 B.C.E. (29:17). Thus his ministry spanned at least twenty-two years. There is no information given us concerning the rest of his life, but there is a tradition that places his grave just south of the city of Babylon (Zimmerli, Ezekiel 1, 16).