Book of Ezekiel

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The Book of Ezekiel was written for the captives of the tribe of Judah living in exile in Babylon following the Siege of Jerusalem of 597 BC. Up until that exile, their custom had been to worship their God in the Temple in Jerusalem. Exile raised important theological questions. How, the Judeans asked, could they worship their God when they were now in a distant land? Was their God still available to them? Ezekiel speaks to this problem. He first explains that the Judean exile is a punishment for disobedience and he then offers hope to the exiles, suggesting that the exile will be reversed once they return to God.

Unlike their ancestors, who were enslaved and socially marginalized while in exile in Egypt, the Jews of Ezekiel's time were able to become part of the society they found themselves in. The Exiles were told by Jeremiah not to worship the foreign gods, but Jeremiah did tell them that they could become part of the Babylonian culture. They did this well, often being called upon by the Babylonians to complete projects using their skills as artisans. Unlike other enemies, the Babylonians allowed the Jewish people to settle in small groups. While keeping their religious and national identities, many Jewish people did start to settle into their new environment. From building homes to opening businesses, the Jews seemed to settle into their exile land for the long haul.

This growing comfort in Babylon helps to explain why so many Jewish people decided not to return to their land. Many people would have been born in exile and would know nothing of their old land, so when the opportunity came for them to reclaim the land that was taken from them, many decided not to leave the Babylonian land they knew. This large group of people who decided to stay are known to be the oldest of the Jewish diaspora communities along with the Jews of Persia.

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