The vision of the chariot – Monday, 19th week in ordinary time – Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28c
We begin with the last of the three great prophets. The prophetic ministry of Ezekiel is set in a very turbulent background of the history of the people of Judah. These were the last few years of Judah’s independence and the last few years of the existence of the temple built by Solomon.
The Assyrians who had taken into exile the people of the northern kingdom in 723 BC found themselves by the year 628 BC, a weakened and tottering nation after the death of its last strong ruler, Ashurbanipal. At this time, King Josiah began the spiritual reforms in Judah but he lost his life in a battle with the Egyptians and his son was taken captive by the Egyptians. They Egyptians replaced his heir with another son and Jehoiakim becomes king in 609BC. Jehoiakim is unfaithful to Yahweh and has several run-ins with the prophet Jeremiah who accuses him of rejecting the covenant.
In 605, political events brought the Babylonians to power over the region and Judah. Judah becomes a vassal state to this new emerging superpower. At about this time, Babylon almost lost a battle to Egypt in the south in 601 BC. King Jehoiakim thought that a weakened Babylon should be challenged now or it will be too late to assert Judah’s independence. He was horribly wrong!
In 598 the Babylonian army sacked Jerusalem and exiled thousands of its leading citizens to Babylon. While Jehoiakim died, the new king, Jehoiachin was taken prisoner to Babylon along with men like Daniel and the newly ‘ordained’ priest, Ezekiel; the prophet of this book.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, appointed the uncle of King Jehoiachin as king-regent. King Zedekiah would be the last of the kings of Judah before they were taken into captivity in 586 BC. However, several years into his reign, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon much against the instructions of Jeremiah.
The Babylonians would have no more of the shenanigans of Judah. They laid siege to Jerusalem from 589-586,]’breaching its walls, burning the city, destroying the temple and taking into exile her people before killing the young princes before Zedekiah’s own eyes and then tearing those same eyes out.