Good morning! Today we start the book of Ezekiel, with a healthy dose of chapters 1-5. More than any other in the Bible except for John the Seer in Revelation, Ezekiel leads me to ask, “What was he smoking??” His fantastic visions artistically combine natural and supernatural phenomena, all in an effort to communicate God’s messages to the Hebrew people around him in Babylonian exile. Unique for his time, Ezekiel combines both priestly and prophetic impulses. He’s committed to that “old-time religion” of temple rituals and piety, but also wants them to create more faithful and righteous daily behavior.
Today’s reading sets the context for Ezekiel’s prophecies, namely that they occur among the exiles in Babylon. Ezekiel’s call story involves an opening vision of heavenly creatures, likely the heavenly attendants who are called “cherubim”. Wheels with eyes on them play a memorable role, and then Ezekiel describes God’s appearance directly (heretofore unmentionable for fear of idolatry). God commissions Ezekiel as a prophet, sent (at least in this part of the book) to bring divine judgment to a rebellious people. His prophetic call is symbolized by the eating of a scroll filled with bitter words. From here, Ezekiel rhapsodically travels by “the spirit” into the presence of exiles.
Further instructions from God clarify the consequences of Ezekiel’s speech or stillness. If he holds his tongue and the people fail to follow God’s ways, their disobedience is on his head. If he does prophesy on God’s behalf and the people still sin, at least he will have done his part, and will be free from divine reproach. This sense of unchosen but compulsory speech as God’s emissary couldn’t have been easy to absorb. Indeed, the end of chapter 3 makes it sound like he’s imprisoned and segregated for mental illness.
Today’s final two chapters focus on Jerusalem’s destruction. Ezekiel depicts the city’s fateful siege, first as a child might play with toy blocks, and then with graphic physical impact in his body. Following what he believes was God’s command, Ezekiel lays on his side for over a year as a message about God’s punishment for Jerusalem. (I don’t fully follow the logic here, but timing and numbers are important.) Other “sign-acts” and instructions follow, and I’ll be interested in your impressions! A final fun fact: the grains mentioned in Ezekiel 4:9 are used even today to make bread, with those as the only ingredients. Look it up by that verse in the bread aisle. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Ezekiel 6-10. Thanks for reading!