The Prophet Ezekiel, the Relentless Vision and the Call of History
Affiliation: University of Wollongong, Sydney, Australia
Keywords: Ezekiel, Prophet, Old Testament, Jewish Exile, Babylon, Epilepsy
Categories: Medicine, Humanities, Social Sciences and Law
The Old Testament is the history of Israelite people expressed through their prophets. The original charismatic figures, prophets were chosen, rather than born – whether they wanted to or not. Prophets did not have an easy ministry. Their communities were reluctant to abandon hedonistic or sacrilegious lives while incorrect predictions of the future could lead to death. The Babylonian exile was a turning point in the history of the Jewish people. An elite group were forced to leave Jerusalem and make a new life in a distant location and foreign culture. Ezekiel, as one of the exiles and a descendant of a priestly family, is the only prophet to have operated outside the Holy Land. His famous chariot vision turned him to prophesy and the need to convince his flock to return to godly practices. The moral failings of the Israelites, he said, would lead to the destruction of the Temple. Exile was their punishment for disobedience and only his suitably pious followers were allowed to return from exile. Ezekiel is credited as the originator of that essential feature of the Diaspora life, the synagogue. Of more importance, Ezekiel is credited with making the shift from collective to individual guilt, a key feature of Jewish morality. The Book of Ezekiel that records his ministry is one of the longest books in the bible and regarded as a masterwork of prose. Yet Ezekiel’s darker side is evident and the symbolic parables of women reveal a disturbing misogyny. Ezekiel’s behaviour has been the subject of much study. Analysis shows that he had the personality changes of chronic temporal lobe epilepsy, one of the first recorded cases in history.