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The glorious capital of Jerusalem, the only remaining Israelite city, has fallen to the Babylonian armies. The richest, most prominent, most intelligent, and most powerful in Jerusalem are taken as slaves to serve in Babylon, and the peasants are left to eke out an existence in the devastated ruins. Ezekiel was one of those deported to Babylon, and God called him to be a ''watchman'' for His people there, keeping them informed of God's movements and intentions, explaining to them the reasons for their plight, and renewing their hope in God's promises in spite of them.
Ezekiel does so, but in some very unorthodox ways. He often speaks in fables and allegories. He has extraordinary visions and dreams. He falls into trances, loses his ability to speak for a time, and engages in other strange behaviors such as tying himself to the ground for many days, shaving his head and burning the hair, cooking his food over human dung, just to name a few. Psychologists have diagnosed Ezekiel as schizophrenic, epileptic, catatonic, psychotic, narcissistic, masochistic, and paranoid. However, Ezekiel was not mentally deranged, just radically committed to communicating the seriousness of God's message so that Israel (and we) would pay special attention.
The book of Ezekiel tells of the final failure of God’s people as constituted by the first covenants, and looks forward to their being reconstituted by a new covenant that includes a true Shepherd and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
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