The chosen ones (Zech 6:9-6:10)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘Collect silver!

Collect gold

From the exiles

Heldai,

Tobijah,

Jedaiah!

They have arrived

From Babylon.

Go the same day

To the house of Josiah,

The son of Zephaniah.”

Yahweh spoke to Zechariah again.  He told him to collect silver and gold from the exiles that had returned from Babylon.  There are 3 people named here who were exiles from the captivity, Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah.  However, we know nothing about them, since they only appear in this work without any kind of titles.  Apparently, they were rich.  Zechariah was also to go to Josiah, the son of Zephaniah.

Daniel goes before the king (Dan 5:13-5:14)

“Then Daniel

Was brought in

Before the king.

The king said to Daniel.

‘So!

You are Daniel!

One of the exiles

Of Judah!

My father!

The king!

He brought you

From Judah.

I have heard

Of you.

A spirit

Of the gods

Is in you.

Light

Is found in you.

Understanding

Is found in you!

Excellent wisdom

Is found in you!’”

Daniel went before King Belshazzar. This king said to Daniel that he was one of the exiles from Judah that his father or grandfather, King Nebuchadnezzar, had brought from Judah. Then this king praised Daniel. He said that he heard of Daniel as someone who had the spirit of the gods in him. Also, Daniel had light, understanding, and excellent wisdom. This sounds like it is heading in the right direction as King Belshazzar met Belteshazzar, Daniel, since they had practically the same name.

The three great men (Ezek 14:14-14:16)

“‘Even if

These three men,

Noah,

Daniel,

Job,

Were in that land,

They would save

Only their own lives

By their righteousness.’

Says Yahweh God.

‘If I send

Wild animals

Through the land,

To ravage it,

Thus it is made desolate,

So that no one

May pass through

Because of the animals.

Even if these three men

Were in that land,

As I live,

They would deliver

Neither sons,

Nor daughters.

They alone

Would be saved.

But the land

Would be desolate.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh seems to single out 3 great men, Noah, Daniel, and Job. Strangely enough, all 3 are not mainstays of Israelite history. Noah, in Genesis, precedes Abraham, thus is pre-Israelite. Daniel is a prophet who lived after the time of Ezekiel, with a book named after him. Job was, of course, not an Israelite in his famous book. They seem like unlikely heroes for the exiles. The point of this oracle was that individuals could not save a country of wicked people. Their righteousness would only save their own lives. Quite often this is used as an example of individual responsibility. However, it can be seen as an example of the limited impact of good people. The land would be devastated by wild animals, despite these 3 good men. They would not even be able to save their own sons or daughters. Only they would be saved since the land would be desolate.

The Spirit and the people at the River Chebar (Ezek 3:14-3:15)

“The Spirit

Lifted me up.

He took me away.

I went in bitterness

In the heat

Of my spirit.

The hand

Of Yahweh

Was strong upon me.

I came

To the exiles

At Tel-abib.

They lived

By the river Chebar.

I sat there

Among them,

Stunned,

For seven days.”

Ezekiel continued his first person recounting of what happened to him after he saw this colorful vision. The same Spirit of Yahweh or the Holy Spirit lifted up Ezekiel and took him away. Ezekiel went in bitterness of spirit, because the hand of Yahweh was strongly on him. Thus he went to the exiles at Tel-abib, by the river Chebar, near Nippur, not far from the Chebar canal. There Ezekiel sat among these exiles for about a week stunned, in a state of shock.

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 worship of idols (Bar 6:4-6:7)

“Now in Babylon

You will see gods

Made of silver,

Or made of gold,

Or made of wood.

People carry them

On their shoulders.

This inspires fear

Among the heathens.

Take care!

Beware of becoming at all

Like the foreigners!

Do not let fear

Of these gods

Possess you,

When you see the multitude

Before and behind them

Worshiping them!

But say in your heart!

‘It is you!

O Lord!

Whom we must worship!’

My angel

Is with you!

He is watching

Over your lives.”

The author of this letter has a warning for the exiles while they are in Babylon. They will see gods made of silver, gold, and wood that will be carried on people’s shoulders to inspire fear. They should be careful to not become like these foreigners. They should not fear these gods. Even when they see the multitudes before and behind these gods in possessions or parades, they should not be intimidated. They were to remember in their hearts that they were to only worship the Lord. To help them out, an angel would be watching over their lives.

The great house of God (Bar 3:24-3:25)

“O Israel!

How great is

The house of God!

How vast the territory

That he possesses!

It is great.

It has no bounds.

It is high.

It is immeasurable.”

Baruch expounded the greatness of Israel with its vast territory as the house of God. This seems so out of place for the exiles in Babylon who had no land.   However, it was both remembrance and aspirational. Baruch talked about the greatness of Israel with no bounds and immeasurable heights.