Ezekiel 1:1-3 – Introduction


Ezekiel 1:1-3


The first three verses of the book are a double introduction to the book and set this piece of literature within the particular time and space of the Babylonian exile. Ezekiel is identified as a priest who sees visions of God.


God appears to Ezekiel in a particular temporal and spatial context. Two introductions complicate the book’s beginning. Verse 1, in the first person, is the original opening to the book and could lead directly into verse 4. Verses 2-3, written in the third person, clarify the date and referent of the “I”, augment the information about the location, and align the book more closely to other prophetic books with a superscription.

It is the “thirtieth year, the fourth month, fifth day,” but of what? Dates are frequently tied to the reign of kings in biblical literature, but not here. Two possibilities are helpful. First, the date might be the 30th year of Ezekiel’s life. Second, the date might be the 30th year of Josiah’s reform. According to 2 Kings 22, in 622 BCE the priest Hilkiah discovers the book of the law in the Temple, an unearthing that leads to repentance on the king’s part, a consultation with the prophet Huldah, and a reform of religious practices throughout Judah.

God appears to Ezekiel in captivity. The prophet is located among the exiles, his people, by the river Chebar – a channel from the Euphrates – near Babylon. The location of the river is given more specificity in verse 3 when we learn that Chebar is in Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans. The appearance of God outside of Jerusalem and Judah is astounding. God’s presence among the enemies of God’s people represents a profound shift in a theology that assumes God’s abiding presence in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Verses 2-3 date this vision with reference to King Jehoiachin’s exile in Babylon. His time of exile, which corresponds to the prophet’s exile as well, will be the reference for all future date notices in the book. The new ruler in Judah, King Zedekiah, is not mentioned in Ezekiel. Time is measured according to the first deportation in 597 BCE. This is the crisis moment, a turning point in the long history of Israel. The beginning of the end of kingship, the Temple, and Jerusalem.