(Heb. Yechezkel', יהֶזקֵאל, either meaning Whom God will strengthen or God will prevail), the name of two men.
1. (Sept. Ε᾿ζεκήλ) The head of the twentieth "course" of priests under David (1Ch 24:16, where the name is Anglicized JEHEZEKEL SEE JEHEZEKEL [q.v.]).
2. (Ι᾿εζεκιήλ, Josephus Ι᾿εζεκίηλος, Ant. 10:5, 1.) One of the four greater prophets. SEE PROPHET.
1. There have been various fancies about his name: according to Abarbanel (Praef in Ezech.), it implies "one who narrates the might of God to be displayed in the future," and samne (as Villalpandus, Praef. in Ezech. page 10) see a play on the word in the expressions חֲזקַים and חַזקֵי (3:7, 8, 9), whence the groundless conjecture of Sanctius (Prolegon. in Ezech. page 2, n. 2) that the name was given him subsequently to the commencement of his career (Carpzov, Introduct. ad Libr. Bibl. Vet. Testam. 2, part 3, chapter 5).
2. He was the son of a priest named Buzi (1:3), respecting whom fresh conjectures have been recorded, although nothing is known about him (as archbishop Newcome observes) beyond the fact that he must have given his son a, careful and learned education. The Rabbis had a rule that every prophet in Scripture was also the son of a prophet, and hence (as B. David Kimehi in his Commentary) they absurdly identify Buzi with Jeremiah, who, they say, was so called because he was rejected and despised. Another tradition makes Ezekiel the servant of Jeremiah (Gregory Naz. Or. 47), and Jerome supposes that the prophets being contemporaries during a part of their mission interchanged their prophecies, sending them respectively to Jerusalem and Chaldaea for mutual confirmation and encouragement, that the Jews might hear, as it were, a strophe and antistrophe of warning and promise; "velut ac si duo cantores alter ad alterius vocem sese componerent" (Calvin, Comment. ad' Ezech. 1:2). Although it was only towards the very close of Jeremiah's lengthened office that Ezekiel received his commission, yet these suppositions are easily accounted for by the internal harmony between the two prophets, in proof of which Havernick (Introduct. to Ezek.) quotes Ezekiel 13 as compared with Jer 23:9 sq., and Ezekiel 34 with Jeremiah 33 etc. This inner resemblance is the more striking from the otherwise wide difference of character which separates the two prophets; for the elegiac tenderness of Jeremiah is the reflex of his gentle, calm, and introspective spirit, while Ezekiel, in that age when true prophets were so rare (Eze 12:21; La 2:9), "comes forward with all abruptness and iron consistency. Has he to contend with a people of brazen front and unbending neck? He possesses on his own part an unbending nature, opposing the evil with an unflinching spirit of boldness, with words full of consuming fire" (Havernick, Introd., transl, by Reverend F.W. Gotch in Jour. of Sac. Lit. 1:23).
3. Unlike his predecessor in the prophetic office, who gives us the amplest details of his personal history, Ezekiel rarely alludes to the facts of his own life, and we have to complete the imperfect picture by the colors of late and dubious tradition. He was taken captive from a place called Sarera (ἐκ γῆς Σαρηρά, Isidor. De Vit. et Ob. Sanct. 39; Epiphan. De Vit. et Mort. Prophet. 9, ap. Carpzov) in the captivity (or transmigration, as Jerome more accurately prefers to render גָּלוּת, 1:2) of Jehoiachin (not Jehoiakim, as Josephus [Ant. 10:6, 3] states, probably by a slip of memory) with other distinguished exiles (2Ki 24:15) eleven years before the destruction of Jerusalem. B.C. 598. Josephus (l.c.) says that this removal happened when he was a boy, and although we cannot consider the assertion to be refuted by Havernick's argument from the matured, vigorous, priestly character of his writings, and feel still less inclined to say that he had "undoubtedly" exercised for some considerable time the function of a priest, yet the statement is questionable, because it is improbable (as Havernick also points out) that Ezekiel long survived the twenty-seventh year of his exile (39:17), so that, if Josephus be correct, he must have died very young. He was a member of a community of Jewish exiles who settled on the banks of the Chebar, a "river" or stream of Babylonia, which is sometimes taken to be the Khabour, but which the latest investigators suppose to be the Nahr Malcha, or royal canal of Nebuchadnezzar. SEE
CHEBAR. The actual name of the spot where he resided was Tel-Abib (תֵּל אָבַיב , Vulg. "acervus novarum frugum," Sept. μετέωρος καὶ περιῆλθον (?). Syr. "the hill of grief"), a name which Jerome, as usual, allegorizes; it is thought by Michaelis to be the same as Thallaba in D'Anville's map (Rosenmuller, Bibl. Geog. 2:188). It was by this river "in the land of the Chaldeans" that God's message first reached him (1:3); the Chaldee version, however, interpolates the words "in the land [of Israel: and again a second time he spake to him in the land] of the Chaldeans," because the Jews had a notion that the Shechinah could not overshadow a prophet out of the Holy Land. Hence R. Jarchi thinks that chapter 17 was Ezekiel's first prophecy, and was uttered before the captivity, a view which he supports by the Hebrew idiom הָיֹה הָיָה (A.V. "came expressly") in 1:3. R. Kimchi, hovever, makes an exception to the rule in case the prophecy was inspired in some pure and quiet spot like a river's bank (comp. Ps 137:1). His call took place "in the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity," B.C. 594 (1:2), "in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month." The latter expression is very uncertain. Most commentators (see Poll Synopsis, in loc.) take it to mean the thirtieth year of his age (so Carpzov, Appar. Crit. page 201, and others), the recognized period for assuming full priestly functions (Nu 4:23,30). Origen, following this assumption, makes the prophet a type of Christ, to whom also "the heavens were opened" when he was baptized; in Jordan. But, as Pradlus argues, such. a computation would be unusual, and would not be sufficiently important or well known as a mark of genuineness, and would require some more definite addition. Moreover, the statute referred to required an age of at least thirty full years. The Chaldee paraphrase by Jonah ben-Uzziel has "thirty years after Hilkiah, the high-priest, had found the book of the law in the sanctuary, in the vestibule under the porch, at midnight, after the setting of the moon, in the days of Josiah, etc., in the month Tammuz, in the fifth day of the month" (comp. 2 Kings 22), i.e., the eighteenth of Josiah, or B.C. 623. This view is adopted by Jerome, Usher, Haivernick, etc., and is, on the whole, the most probable, although it has been objected to its adoption that, had this been a recognized area, we should have found traces of it elsewhere, whereas even Ezekiel never refers to it again. But, whatever starting-point we adopt, this will still remain an isolated date in Ezekiel; and the example of Jeremiah, who computes the years of his prophetical ministrations from the reform in the days of Josiah (Jer 25:3; comp. 2Ch 24:3), warrants the supposition that his contemporary and parallel would note his own call from a similar religious epoch, the renewal of the passover in the same reign (2Ki 23:23). There are similar and more forcible objections to its being the thirtieth year from the jubilee, as Hitzig supposes, following many of the early commentators. It has been proposed by Scaliger (De Emendatione Temporuair, Lugd. Bat. 1598, page 374) that it was the thirtieth year from the new sera of Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, who began to reign B.C. 625, an interpretation adopted by Eichhorn, Pradus, Rosenmiiller, Henderson, etc. The use of this Chaldee epoch is the more appropriate as the prophet wrote in Babylonia, and he gives a Jewish chronology in verse 2. Compare the notes of time in Da 2:1; Da 7:1; Ezr 7:7; Ne 2:1; Ne 5:14. But this would make the date in question B.C. 596 instead of 594. Moreover, as Nabopolassar was long since dead, the reckoning would doubtless have been by the years of the reigning monarch, as in the other passages cited. The decision of the question is the less important, because in all other places Ezekiel dates from the year of Jehoiachin's captivity (Eze 29:17; Eze 30:20, et passim). It appears that the call of Ezekiel to the prophetic office was connected with the communication of Jeremiah's predictions to Babylon (Jer 51:59), which took place in the earlier part of the same year (Havernick, page 9). We learn from an incidental allusion (Eze 24:18) — the only reference which he makes to his personal history — that he was married, and had a house (8:1) in his place of exile, and lost his wife by a sudden and unforeseen stroke. He lived in the highest consideration among his companions in exile, and their elders consulted him on all occasions (Eze 8:1; Eze 11:25; Eze 14:1; Eze 20:1, etc.), because in his united office of priest and prophet he was a living witness to "them of the captivity" that God had not abandoned them (comp.Vitringa, Synag. Vet. page 332). There seems to be little ground for Theodoret's supposition that he was a Nazarite. The last date he mentions is the twenty-seventh year of the captivity (Eze 29:17), so that his mission extended over twenty-two years, during part of which period Daniel was probably living, and already famous (Eze 14:14; Eze 28:3).
Tradition ascribes various miracles to him, as, for instance, escaping from his enemies by walking dryshod across the Chebar; feeding the famished people with a miraculous draught of fishes, etc. He is said to have been murdered in Babylon by some Jewish prince (?ὁ ἡγούμενος τοῦ λαοῦ, called in the Roman martyrology for 6 Id. Apr. "judex populi," Carpzov. Introd. 1.c.), whom he had conyicted of idolatry; and to have been buried in a double tomb (σπηλαῖον διπλούν), the tomb of Shem and Arphaxad, on the banks of the Euphrates (Epiphan. De Vit. et Mort. Prophet.). The tomb, said to have been built by Jehoiachin, was shown a few days' journey from Bagdad (Menasse ben-Israel, De Resurrec. Mort. page 23), and was called "the abode of elegance" (habitaculum elegantiae). A lamp was kept there continually burning, and the autograph copy of the prophecies was said to be there preserved. This tomb is mentioned by Pietro de la Valle, and fully described in the Itinerary of R. Benjamin of Ttdela (Hottinger, Thes. Philippians II, 1:3; Cippi Hebraici, page 82). His tomb is still pointed out in the vicinity of Babylon (Layard's Nineveh and Babylon, page 427), at a place called Keffil; and Mr. Loftus is inclined to accept the tradition which assigns this as the resting-place of the prophet's remains (Chaldaea, page 35). The spire is the frustum of an elongated cone, tapering to a blunted top by a succession of steps, and peculiarly ornamented (ib.). A curious conjecture (discredited by Clemens Alexandrinus [Strom. 1], but considered not impossible by Selden [Syntagm. de Diis Syr. 2:120], Meyer, and others) identifies him with "Nazaratus the Assyrian," the teacher of Pythagoras. We need hardly mention the ridiculous suppositions that he is identical with Zoroaster, or with the Ε᾿ζεκίηλος ὁ τῶν Ιουδαϊκῶν τραγωδίων ποιητής (Clem. Alexand. Strom. 1; Euseb. Praep. Evang. 9:28, 29), who wrote a play on the Exodus, called Ε᾿ξαγωγή (Fabricius, Bibl. Graec. 2:19). This Ezekiel lived B.C. 40 (Sixt. Sen. Bibl. Sanct. 4:235), or later.
4. But, as Havernick remarks, "by the side of the scattered data of his external life, those of his internal life appear so much the richer." We have already noticed his stern and inflexible energy of will and character; and we also observe a devoted adherence to the rites and ceremonies of his national religion. Ezekiel is no cosmopolite, but displays everywhere the peculiar tendencies of a Hebrew educated under Levitical training. The priestly bias is always visible, especially in chapters 8-11, 40-48, and in 4:13 sq.; 20:12 sq.; 22:8, etc. It is strange of De Wette and Gesenius to attribute this to a "contracted spirituality," and of Ewald to see in it "a one- sided conception of antiquity which he obtained merely from books and traditions," and "a depression of spirit (!) enhanced by the long continuance of the banishment and bondage of the people" (Havernick's Introd.). It was surely this very intensity of patriotic loyalty to a system whose partial suspension he both predicted and survived, which cheered the exiles with the confidence of his hopes in the future, and tended to preserve their decaying nationality. Mr. F. Newman is even more contemptuous than the German critics. "The writings of Ezekiel," he says (Hebr. Monarchy, page 330, 2d ed.), "painfully show the growth of what is merely visionary, and an increasing value of hard sacerdotalism;" and he speaks of the "heavy materialism" of Ezekiel's Temple, with its priests, sacrifices, etc., as "tedious and unedifying as Leviticus itself." His own remark that Ezekiel's predictions "so kept alive in the minds of the next generation a belief in certain return from captivity, as to have tended exceedingly towards the result," is a sufficient refutation of such criticisms.
We may also note in Ezekiel the absorbing recognition of his high calling which enabled him cheerfully to endure any deprivation or misery (except indeed ceremonial pollution, from which he shrinks with characteristic loathing, 4:14), if thereby he may give any warning or lesson to his people (4; Eze 24:15-16, etc.), whom he so ardently loved (Eze 9:8; Eze 11:13). On one occasion, and on one only, the feelings of the man burst, in one single expression, through the self-devotion of the prophet; and while even then his obedience is unwavering, yet the inexpressible depth of submissive pathos in the brief words which tell how it one day "the desire of his eyes was taken from him" (Eze 24:15-18), shows what well- springs of the tenderest human emotion were concealed under his uncompromising opposition to every form of sin. See Friderici, Disputatio de Ezechiele (Lips; 1719); Verpoorten, De scriptis Ezechielis (in his Dissertt. page 107); Alexander, Tist. Ecclesias. 3:560; Kitto. Jour. Sac. Lit. 1; Williams, Characters of O.T. page 288.