The captivity of the Ammonites (Ezek 25:3-25:4)

“Say to the Ammonites!

Hear

The word of Yahweh God!

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘You said.

‘Aha!’

Over my sanctuary

When it was profaned.

You said.

‘Aha!’

Over the land of Israel

When it was made desolate.

You said.

‘Aha!’

Over the house of Judah

When it went into exile.

Therefore

I am handing you over

To the people of the East

For a possession.

They shall set

Their encampments

Among you.

They shall pitch

Their tents

In your midst.

They shall eat

Your fruit.

They shall drink

Your milk.’”

Yahweh wanted Ezekiel to tell the Ammonites to listen to the word of Yahweh, their God. However, they had their own gods. Apparently the Ammonites had profaned the sanctuary in Jerusalem. They had laughed when the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed. They had even laughed at the exile of the people from Judah. Their punishment would be that they would be handed over to the people of the East, who would set up encampments and tents in their territory. These invaders would even eat their fruit and drink their milk. This probably was an allusion to the Assyrians, whom the Ammonites were dependent upon.

Yahweh will scatter the exiles (Ezek 12:14-12:16)

“I will scatter

To every wind

All who are around him,

His helpers,

All his troops.

I will unsheathe

The sword

Behind them.

They shall know

That I am Yahweh.

When I disperse them

Among the nations

I will scatter them

Through the countries.

But I will let

A few of them escape

From the sword,

From famine,

From pestilence.

Thus they may tell

Of all their abominations

Among the nations

Where they go.

Then they may know

That I am Yahweh.”

In this exile, not everyone will go to the same place. Yahweh indicated that he was going to scatter the helpers and the soldiers of the king to the wind. He certainly was going to make sure that some died by the sword. They should know that he was Yahweh. He was going to disperse them among the various nations and scatter them among different countries. He was going to let a few of them escape from the 3 ways of dying, the sword, famine, or pestilence. Those who survived would talk about all their abominations among the diverse nations, wherever they went. Thus everyone would know that Yahweh was the God of Israel.

Ezekiel’s actions were a sign of captivity (Ezek 12:8-12:11)

“In the morning

The word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘Son of man!

Has not the house of Israel,

The rebellious house,

Said to you?

‘What are you doing?’

Say to them.

‘Thus says Yahweh God!

This oracle concerns

The prince in Jerusalem

With all the house of Israel

In it.’

Say!

‘I am a sign for you.

As I have done,

So shall it be done

To them.

They shall go

Into exile.

They shall go

Into captivity.’”

The next morning, the word of Yahweh came to Ezekiel, the son of man. Yahweh wanted to know if the rebellious house of Israel had asked him what he was doing. When they did ask, he was to tell them that this oracle concerned the prince in Jerusalem with all the house of Israel. Ezekiel was to tell them that his actions were a sign of things to come. What he had done, all of them would do the same. They were going to go into exile and captivity.

Ezekiel lies on his left side for Israel (Ezek 4:4-4:5)

“Then lie on your left side!

Place the punishment

Of the house of Israel

On it!

You shall bear

Their punishment

For the number of the days

That you lie there.

I assign to you

A number of days,

Three hundred ninety days.

This is equal

To the number of the years

Of their punishment.

So you shall bear

The punishment

Of the house of Israel.”

The voice of Yahweh or the Spirit continued telling Ezekiel to lie on his left side for 390 days to indicate the number of years that Israel would be punished. Thus Ezekiel would assume this punishment that was intended for Israel, lying there on his left side one day for every year, like a scapegoat. It is hard to figure out where this number came from since it is more than a year of days. The exile did not last this long.

The time and place of Ezekiel’s first vision (Ezek 1:1-1:3)

“In the thirtieth year,

In the fourth month,

On the fifth day

Of the month,

As I was among the exiles

By the river Chebar,

The heavens

Were opened.

I saw visions

Of God.

This was the fifth day

Of the month

Of the fifth year

Of the exile

Of King Jehoiachin.

The word of Yahweh

Came to

The priest Ezekiel,

The son of Buzi,

In the land

Of the Chaldeans

By the river Chebar.

The hand

Of Yahweh

Was on me there.”

The dating is very precise here. This is the 30th year, probably from his birth around 623 BCE during the reign of King Josiah. Ezekiel writes in the first person singular. He said that he was among the exiles at the Chebar River, a small canal near Erech that ran into the Euphrates River in northern Babylon. On the 5th day of the 4th month the heavens opened to provide visions of God to him.  Once again, there is precise information about the date, as this was the 5th year of the exile of King Jehoiachin that had occurred in 598 BCE. Thus this year would have been 593 BCE. Ezekiel’s father was Buzi, a Jerusalem priest, so that he was from a family of priests. The word of Yahweh came to Ezekiel in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar. Yahweh put his hand on him. Thus the opening scene is set with this 30 year old exiled Jerusalem priest by a river bank with the rest of the exiles, when a heavenly vision appeared to him.

The captivity in Babylon (Bar 6:2-6:3)

“Because of the sins

That you have committed

Before God,

You will be taken

To Babylon

As exiles

By King Nebuchadnezzar,

The king of the Babylonians.

Therefore

When you have come

To Babylon,

You will remain there

For many years,

For a long time,

Up to seven generations.

After that,

I will bring you

Away from there

In peace.”

This letter presents the traditional view that they were being sent into exile because of the sins that they had committed. King Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonians was going to take them to Babylon where they might stay for a long time, many years, possibly 7 generations, and not 70 years as in Jeremiah, chapter 29. After that they would leave in peace.

Historical Introduction (Bar 6:1-6:1)

“A copy of a letter

That Jeremiah sent

To those

Who were to be taken

To Babylon

As exiles

By the king of the Babylonians.

This was

To give them

The message

That God

Had commanded him.”

This claims to be a letter written by Jeremiah as the people were about to be taken into exile. Was this the first exile in 597 BCE or the second exile in 587 BCE? This letter is probably around the second exile. How does this relate to the letter of Jeremiah in chapter 29 of his work? It has nothing to do with the letter in Jeremiah. It probably has nothing to do with Jeremiah at all, since it has strong traces of the later Hellenistic period. Finally, why is it here as chapter 6 at the end of the Book of Baruch? It is here because that was the place of this work in the Greek translation of the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate translation. This is a so-called copy of a letter that Jeremiah sent to those who were to be taken to Babylon as exiles. Jeremiah had been friendly to the Babylonians, so that does not seem to be a stretch.   This was a message that God commanded Jeremiah to give to exiles as they departed from Jerusalem. The verse numbering is one verse different in the Bible of Jerusalem because this was considered an introduction and not verse 1. This continues throughout this chapter.