Ezekiel was an exiled priest sent to live in Babylonia in 597BCE. He began his prophetic ministry while in exile and it is during this time that he received the vision of the dry bones. In this essay I will address the background, form, content and meaning of Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones.
Background to Ezekiel’s Prophecy:
Before Ezekiel began his prophecy there was widespread conflict in the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians, Egyptians and the Babylonians. In 597 BCE the Babylonians took control of Jerusalem with members of royalty, nobles, craftsmen and smiths being sent into exile. In 2 Kings 24:14 it is stated that “only the poorest people in the land” escaped exile, though this is likely to be an exaggeration as people living in rural areas more than likely survived relatively unharmed (Darr, 2001). The living conditions of the exiled people have been widely debated. The exiled community was permitted to preserve its language, religion and internal governance by the elders; however they bore the scars of the previous wars and of being deported and some were forced into labour (Barton & Muddiman, 2001).
The book of Ezekiel contains little biographical information about the person of Ezekiel; however from it we know that his father’s name was Buzi, and that the name Ezekiel means “God Strengthens” or “May God Strengthen” (Darr, 2001). It is believed that Ezekiel was exiled in 597BCE to Chebar in Babylon with the first group of exiles (Miller, 1987). The fact that he was exiled with the first group of exiles suggests that he was a prominent and wealthy figure in Jerusalem. Ezekiel was either a priest or a priest in training at the time of his deportation “the word of the ...
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...known as Ephraim (Brown, et al., 1990). From this it is obvious that Ezekiel did not just think of or want justice for the Judean community, but also for the Northern kingdom which was destroyed by the Assyrians in 721BCE (Darr, 2001). The promise to restore the northern kingdom comes as a surprise as the vision occurred one hundred and fifty years after its destruction. However, the restoration that Yahweh will bring will be the restoration of his own kingdom, not just the kingdom of Judah (Darr, 2001).
It is clear to see that Ezekiel’s vision is one of restoration and hope. This essay has evaluated the background of his prophecy, and the form, content and meaning of his vision of the dry bones found in ch. 37. The vision is both distinctive and unconventional. Ezekiel’s use of powerful imagery and symbolism successful conveys his message and meaning.
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