I recently completed the Book of Ezekiel on-line with my Housegroup. We have discovered an interesting way of working together, with members themselves doing some research and reporting back to the group.
I had studied Ezekiel at Theological College but had never looked at the last Chapters of Ezekiel which is a prophecy about the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. You may recall that Solomon’s Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians in about 586 BCE, when the Jews were taken into exile to Babylon.
You may remember Ezekiel’s vision of God on the banks of the river Kebar in Babylon. It is a strange image – you may also remember the wheels within wheels. Jewish mystics and theologians, see this as a vision of the Chariot of God. For some it is the ultimate vision of God which may come to a worshipper. You can read about this vision in Chapter I and 2 of Ezekiel.
One meaning of this vision is the awareness that God is present among the exiles in a foreign land. God is not confined by a temple or a country or a nation.
A few in the group attempted rough sketches of this vision.
I include two poem narratives of Judgement based on Ezekiel’s prophecy of Judgement on Jerusalem.
that God has spoken
in anger and wrath.
that Jerusalem will fall
because God’s people of choice
have not answered His call
to listen to His voice.
They have not kept His laws
as laid down in the Bible,
nor followed His cause
but have worshipped an idol.
of destruction and death,
of famine, plague, death,
of parents eating children,
of children eating parents,
of death by the sword,
is doomed by God’s wrath.
to such terrible pain
And again …
A way into reading Ezekiel
The Chariot of God Chapter 1-2
Prophecies of Judgement Chapter 4 – 5: 17 & Chapter 24
Individual Responsibility Chapter 18
The Valley of Dry Bones Chapter 18
Gog and Magog Chapter 38
The New Temple Chapters 40-48
Oh the delight of my eyes
Ezekiel 26: 15 f
What is the delight of my eyes?
My wife is the delight of my eyes,
She has been my companion
on this difficult journey of being a prophet.
Our children are our delight.
They are life’s gift to us,
a blessing on our nation Israel.
My delight above all else is in the
great temple of Israel,
in the God of our fathers.
The walls of the temple
speak of God’s Almighty presence.
I dreamt last night that my wife had died,
and in the day time came news of her death.
A voice inside me whispered,
Do not mourn O man,
continue to wear your turban
continue to cover your feet,
to expose your moustache to the people.
Refuse to eat the food of mourning.
Go out into the market place.
The people who saw me
shook their fists and said:
What is the meaning of all this?
What is happening to you
Why do you behave in such a way
Do you not love your wife?
I cried allowed in the market place,
Do you not see, I have become a sign to you?
The Lord God the Almighty One
comes with fury to destroy The Sacred Temple.
He will burn, pull down and desecrate
the delight of your eyes.
Your children will be put to the sword.
All will be chaos and confusion,
and there will be no time for the niceties of mourning
You will be on the run, you will become fugitives.
One came running to me, a fugitive in flight
with the news of the destruction.
All is lost! Jerusalem is besieged.
The temple destroyed, not one stone upon another.
Then I opened my mouth and declared the oracles of God
In humility you will know the Lord.
The Valley of Dry Bones
A turning point in the theme of Judgement comes in Ezekiel 37 in the Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones – here is an account of Resurrection and New life, a nation of bones is raised from the dry ground, bones come together, limb to limb and new life is breathed into flesh and bone. And there is a promise of a new future for the people. This vision has captured the imagination of artists and musicians, and also politicians who wish to justify and consolidate present day Israel.
I have read that this vision inspired many Jewish people as they began to recover from the horror of the Holocaust.
For a delightful presentation of the story, listen to The Delta Rhythm Boys singing Dry Bones https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVoPG9HtYF8&list=PL-hHW-W5hpil4FF9rQEcplcJ0-VJwptdW&index=10&t=2s
The New Temple
More interesting still is the final section of the book of Ezekiel chapters 40-48 in which he prophesied the building of the New Temple. Plans for the temple, every detail of its size, its buildings, its priesthood, it sacrifices are laid out. There are a number of videos on YouTube which visualise what it could look like. You may try this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNmERZkT6JM&list=PL-hHW-W5hpil4FF9rQEcplcJ0-VJwptdW&index=11
It was never built. There are those who give a literal interpretation of these passages, mainly very Orthodox Jews, Messianic Jews, fundamentalist Christians, and I wager politicians. They see the Temple of Ezekiel as yet to come in a sort of war at the end of the world.
Parts of the prophecy are richly symbolic and certainly apocalyptic in the use of numbers. The water flowing from the temple and becoming a huge river running down to the Dead Sea is certainly symbolic.
Can you imagine a time when modern Israel will build a temple on the temple mount according to the plan as outlined by Ezekiel, and will they try to build it to the letter of the word of Ezekiel? What would be the purpose of such a structure? The Jews stopped animal sacrifices 2,000 years ago and are we to imagine their returning to it and all the functions of the Levitical priest and the priests of Zadok?
Perhaps there is another view of the temple of Ezekiel in that, in the prophecy we are given a picture of a temple where everything is in harmony, the structure itself, the priesthood, musicians, the worshippers. Ezekiel certainly sees in each person, an honest intention to worship God in sincerity and truth, keeping God’s laws that will enhance the common good of all God’s people; a priesthood that goes beyond power and politics.
Perhaps it is not meant to be built in bricks and mortar and that it is rather something of the heart, and something that needs to be built in the heart of humanity.
Ezekiel 18: 31 Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
‘And the name of the city from that time on will be:
the Lord is there.’ Ezekiel 48:35
Listen to Zadok the Priest by Handel
- Becoming Human
- The Fox and the Crow
- Prayers for Pentecost
- Vasilisa- A Russian Fairy Tale
- Taizé Reflection Service on Resurrection and New life